Will Norwich lose its flavour?

For generations passed, Colman’s table sauces have been at the heart of family meals. Mustard, mint sauce, seasonings, you name it – Colman’s has been on top of their game, experimenting to the pleasure of our taste buds for over 200 years. But after recent decisions were made to move the factory out of its decades-long Carrow site, Colman’s may no longer be able to call itself ‘of Norwich’, let alone its mustard ‘English’.

200 years of history

Settled in Norwich in 1858 by Jeremiah James Colman, great- nephew of Jeremiah Colman, who founded the mustard making business over 200 years ago within the confines of Norfolk, Colman’s Mustard has held a dear part in the history of the city.

Colman and his wife treated their employees like family, providing company housing and sick benefit for their employees, and even setting up a school for their employees’ children. Throughout their history, employees have usually been kept within the same families, and the business was currently going into their fifth generation of mustard growers. Ingredients had also been sourced sustainably through local farmers, thus making Colman’s a significant part of the community.

Around 50 jobs at risk

However, with parent company Unilever’s decision to shut the factory’s work site by the end of 2019, allegedly moving its liquid condiments to Burton upon Trent, where Marmite and Bovril are produced, and dry sauces to Germany, numerous jobs will be lost in Norwich. Unilever employs 113 people in Norwich, and although approximately 40 will be transferred to Burton, where around 25 jobs will also be created, this still leaves nearly 50 employees unattended to, even in the unlikely event that the Norwich staff move to Staffordshire.

The decision comes after the Carrow Works’ co-owner, Britvic, which makes soft drinks such as Fruit Shoot and Robinsons squash, announced in October that they would be moving out of the shared factory, a decision which prompted Unilever’s decision to follow suit.

“No shame and no compassion”

Workers unions such as Unite have declared it “devastating” and “terrible” news after attempts to persuade Unilever to reassess its decision. Clive Lewis also took to Twitter, commenting on the Conservative MP of Burton, Andrew Griffiths’ suggestion to replace the ‘of Norwich’ label on Colman’s branding to ‘Colman’s of Burton’, stating that “the Unilever consultation has barely got underway and the Tory vultures are already circling. They have no shame and no compassion.” Other tweets have speculated about the influence of Brexit, since Unilever will be moving some of its production to Germany.

Seeds of hope still remain?

Some functions will continue to be situated in Norwich in an endeavour to preserve the link between Norwich and Colman’s, including the mustard milling and mint processing, albeit in a new site. Nevertheless, despite such disappointing news, Colman’s will no doubt still always be a part of Norwich’s history.


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November 2021
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