Norfolk may be known for its waterways and architecture, but the cathedral city of Norwich has another claim to fame. Back in 1814, Colman’s Original English Mustard began life at a water mill just outside of the city. Forty years later, it was relocated to the Carrow Road site, where it expanded and quickly became a major employer for city residents.
Colman’s was a family firm for many decades, with founder Jeremiah being joined by his nephew James in 1823; James’ son joined them 20 years later. The Colmans established a school for their employees’ children in the mid-19th century and were the main sponsors of Norwich City Football Club from 1997 until 2001.
Several streets in Norwich are named after the Colman family in recognition of their role in helping the city. It is understandable that the thought of losing this link is so devastating; along with around 113 jobs, the immediate future of Colman’s mustard production is uncertain.
From expansion to takeover
During the Second World War, mustard wasn’t rationed. It helped to make bland wartime food somewhat more edible, so the company thrived. In the late 1960s, Colman’s expanded by acquiring two other businesses that dealt with sauce and wine. It was 1995 when Unilever bought the company out and created a new page in the brand’s history.
Unilever at Britvic’s mercy?
Unilever is a huge British-Dutch conglomerate that incorporates hundreds of big brand names, so the idea that they cannot maintain a relatively tiny factory and staff seems quite unreal. The decision to close, which has not yet been officially verified, is being blamed on Britvic PLC’s decision to cease production at this location by the end of 2019. Having shared vital infrastructure like bathrooms and staff restaurants, this has left Unilever in a tricky position and forced the need for a comprehensive review of how cost-effective production could be once Britvic are gone.
Unilever may follow Britvic’s lead and offer packages to help them move on. Companies such as dt moving, which offer employee relocation services, may be consulted to help with this process should the current arrangement be judged unworkable post-Britvic.
It’s unthinkable that the Norwich – Colman link could be lost forever, so the outcome of investigations will be greatly anticipated.