Why the closure of a Robinsons squash factory could harm Colman's Mustard

Emma Haslett
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The factory closure is part of a wider cost-cutting programme (Source: Britvic / Facebook)

Colman's Mustard could be under threat thanks to the closure of a factory producing Robinson's fruit squash.

Unilever, the owner of Colman's, admitted today the decision by Britvic to close of a factory in Norwich producing Robinson's squash could have serious implications.

Today a Unilever spokesman said:

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.

Britvic bombshell

The statement followed the news almost 250 workers will find themselves out of jobs after Britvic announced plans to shut down the factory, at which Colman's has been produced since the mid-19th century.

In a statement today Britvic, which also owns brands including 7Up and J2O, said it will transfer production of the Robinsons and Fruit Shoot from its Norwich site to sites in East London, Leeds and Rugby.

The move will lead to the loss of 242 jobs at the site, although Britvic said it will attempt to help employees find roles at other sites.

The move is part of a three-year transformation programme unveiled by the company in 2015, under which it plans to invest £240m in its UK manufacturing operations.

“Britvic is proud to be a British manufacturer and Norwich has been an important site for our business for many years. This is not a proposal that we make lightly and we know this is upsetting news for our colleagues," said Simon Litherland, the company's chief executive.

"We are very grateful for the hard work and dedication of our employees at our Norwich factory and today’s announcement is in no way a reflection on their performance or commitment.

"However the changes we are proposing today present significant productivity and efficiency savings in our manufacturing operations, deliver environmental benefits and, coupled with our ongoing investment programme in our GB manufacturing operations, ensure that we have the flexibility and capability we need to respond to changing consumer trends faster and more efficiently."

Sad news

“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," said Rhys McCarthy, national officer at Unite.

“The Unilever has today announced a review of the whole site to be concluded by the end of November. Everything is up for review including expanding its operations, selling part of the site and, more worryingly, closure.

“The iconic Colman's Mustard has been produced at the same factory since the 1860s."

Earlier this year PepsiCo sold its 4.5 per cent stake in Britvic as part of a cost-cutting programme.

Shares in Britvic were down 0.4 per cent at 747.5p in late morning trading.

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