Colman's Mustard dons a vintage look

Unilever is set to close its historical Colman’s plant in Norwich next year, shifting production to other plants in the UK and Germany.

Under proposals announced today the company will close the factory, which has been making Coleman’s products for almost two centuries, at the end of 2019, with a phased transfer of production likely to begin in 2018.

Unilever would “protect the historic link between Colman’s and Norwich” by retaining the production and packing of Colman’s mustard powder, the mustard milling process, and mint processing in a new state-of-the-art facility in the Norwich area, said a spokeswoman.

This would be “created through a new long-term partnership with a consortium of local farmers” and backed by “significant investment” from Unilever.

Manufacturing of most other products would be moved to other Unilever plants in the UK, primarily Burton upon Trent, which is the home of Marmite and Bovril.

However, the packing of its dry sauces would be “absorbed by existing production lines and existing employees at a Unilever factory in Germany, which already makes the dry sauce mix,” the spokeswoman confirmed.

Unilever launched a review of its operations at Norwich after Britvic announced last year it would cease operations at the shared site.

The spokeswoman said Britvic’s decision had “serious implications for Unilever” and its proposals represented the “best long-term solution” for the company, while protecting the link between Colman’s and Norwich.

The company will now consult on the proposals with employees at the Norwich plant.

“These proposals will impact on 113 jobs in Norwich. Around 40 roles will transfer to Burton. We expect that the new milling facility near Norwich will create around 25 jobs,” said the spokeswoman.

Trade union GMB said it was “shocked” by the “devastating decision” and would immediately seek a meeting with the company to understand the reasons behind the proposed closure.

Unite urged Unilever to reconsider its decision to cease production at the Norwich plant.

“We are urging Unilever to look again at its business case for closure,” said national officer Rhys McCarthy. “The decision last month by Britvic to close its half of the site, which produces its Robinsons and Fruit Shoot brands, was unhelpful for the future of Colman’s Mustard in Norwich - but we still don’t believe that closure is the only option for the dedicated workforce.”