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Future of the company’s plant in the city is in doubt after Britvic, which co-owns the site, said it would be pulling out in 2019.
Future of the company’s plant in the city is in doubt after Britvic, which co-owns the site, said it would be pulling out in 2019.

Colman's Mustard could cut ties with Norwich as Unilever mulls closure

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

The Guardian - Jan 5th 2018, 13:37

Colman’s Mustard could be on the brink of severing its historical links with Norwich after Unilever said it was reviewing the future of its factory in the city. 

Colman’s has been based in Norfolk since Jeremiah Colman started his mustard and flour business on the outskirts of Norwich in 1814. The brand also sponsored the city’s football team for a period.

But the future of the plant is in doubt after Britvic, the soft-drinks maker behind Robinsons, which co-owns the site, said it would be pulling out in 2019. About 350 jobs are at risk as a result of the changes.

Unilever confirmed it had begun a review of the Norwich plant, where pots of “Colman’s of Norwich” have been produced since 1858, and one of the options on the table was to close it down.

“Britvic and Unilever’s operations have been uniquely intertwined at the site for many years, relying on a shared infrastructure. Although no decisions have been made, we need to recognise that Britvic’s proposed withdrawal would have serious implications for Unilever in Norwich,” the company said.

“The review will look in detail at the impact of Britvic’s proposed withdrawal from the site and will consider options for the most effective sourcing of the current Norwich product range. One of those options will include the potential closure of our Norwich factory.”

The company, which has 113 employees in Norwich, said it recognised Colman’s Norwich heritage and would work to retain that link whatever the outcome of the review.

Staff working at the Unilever and Britvic sites share facilities such as canteens and toilets. There is also a shared steam room that supplies both factories.

Britvic makes its Robinsons and Fruit Shoot products in Norwich but plans to transfer production to its other sites in east London, Leeds and Rugby. The move is part of a three-year efficiency drive that involves investing £240m in its UK manufacturing base.

Britvic said it would embark on a consultation process with the 242 affected staff before the site’s proposed closure at the end of 2019.

Rhys McCarthy, a Unite national officer, said: “This is very painful news for our members and their families at Britvic, and we will be giving the maximum support to our members at what is a very difficult time in the days and weeks ahead."

“The sad news that Britvic is closing its operations in Norwich also has an impact on Unilever workers who share the same site.”

McCarthy expressed his concern that Unilever will be eager to please shareholders after it rebuffed Kraft Heinz’s £115bn takeover bid in February.

“Colman’s Mustard is Norwich and Norwich is Colman’s Mustard. The whole of Norfolk needs to come together to fight for the future of Colman’s Mustard, which is so identified with the city of Norwich,” he said.

Paul Polman, Unilever’s chief executive, is reviewing the company’s Anglo-Dutch corporate structure, and has put its margarines and spreads business up for sale. The company has also launched a €5bn (£4.4bn) share buyback and set a public target of achieving 20% profit margins by 2020.
© 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited 

Read more about: unilever | retail | fmcg | colman's mustard |

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