Unilever has confirmed that its Colman’s mustard factory in Norwich is to close before the end of next year with production being transferred to another UK site and to Germany.
But the Anglo-Dutch company said it will be investing in a new facility in the Norwich area for mustard milling and mint processing.
The decision to close the mustard plant has been criticised by the Unite union while the UK government said it was “disappointed” by the news.
In a statement issued today (4 January), Unilever, said: “Under the proposals which we have shared with our employees, Unilever’s Norwich factory, where we make Colman’s products, would unfortunately close at the end of 2019, with a phased transfer of production likely to begin in 2018.”
Some 113 jobs in Norwich will be affected. Around 40 roles will transfer to an existing site in Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire while the new milling facility will create around 25 jobs.
The writing has been on the wall for the Colman’s facility since October when drinks producer Britvic, with which Unilever shared the Norwich site, announced it was to cease its own production there.
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Following that decision, Unilever announced it was reviewing its options for the future of the site and one of those options included closure.
Before Christmas, the company said the results of that review would be announced in the New Year but today’s closure decision was widely anticipated.
In its statement today the company said it will protect the “historic link between Colman’s and Norwich” – which goes back 200 years – through its new facility and via a new partnership with a consortium of local farmers, “backed by significant investment from Unilever”.
“We will also continue to source our mint and mustard locally as we have for generations,” it said.
Turning to the future manufacture of its products, the statement said: “Manufacturing of the vast majority of the other products is planned to move to other sites in the UK, predominantly Burton upon Trent, home of Marmite and Bovril, reaffirming our commitment to UK food manufacturing. The packing of dry sauces will be absorbed by existing production lines and existing employees at a Unilever factory in Germany, which already makes the dry sauce mix.”
Unilever said it will offer all employees whose roles will be affected by the decision a package of support, including redeployment opportunities at other sites and services to help people find new employment.
But the union Unite, which has members working at the site, has called on Unilever to reconsider its decision, vowing to fight any compulsory redundancies.
Its national officer Rhys McCarthy said: “It is a devastating day for Norwich that the production of Colman’s Mustard will cease production in 2019, ending a tradition stretching back two centuries.
“We are urging Unilever to look again at its business case for closure.
“Our aim during the consultation period will be to retain as many skilled jobs as possible within Unilever and that there should be no compulsory redundancies.”
Meanwhile, a UK government spokesperson said: “The government is disappointed Unilever has decided to close its Norwich plant, though we welcome Unilever’s commitment to mustard milling and mint production in Norwich.”