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Norfolk businessman offers hope for future of Colman’s factory site

PUBLISHED: 10:54 07 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:54 07 October 2017

A view of the entrance at the Unilever and Robinsons squash owner Britvic site in, Carrow, Norwich. Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

A view of the entrance at the Unilever and Robinsons squash owner Britvic site in, Carrow, Norwich. Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

A Norfolk businessman believes his vision for a specialist food-and-drink production hub could throw a lifeline to workers at Norwich’s Colman’s and Britvic factories.

Mark Lansley, chairman of Broadland Wineries. Picture: Broadland Wineries Mark Lansley, chairman of Broadland Wineries. Picture: Broadland Wineries

Mark Lansley of Broadland Wineries wants to speak to Unilever and Britvic bosses in the hope of finding a way to save the site and jobs.

The entrepreneur has a track record in the drinks industry, having helped turn Cawston-based Broadland Wineries from a failing firm to a £57m-turnover business in the past decade.

READ MORE: Britvic and Unilever Norwich factories – What we know so far

View of the Colman's and Britvic site with Kings Street/Bracondale juncation in the bottom left. Picture: Archant library View of the Colman's and Britvic site with Kings Street/Bracondale juncation in the bottom left. Picture: Archant library

On Tuesday Britvic, which produces Robinsons squash and Fruit Shoot, announced plans to close its Carrow Works factory, leading site neighbour Unilever to launch a review into the future of its Colman’s Mustard factory – casting doubt over the 200-year association between the brand and county.

Mr Lansley wants to create a specialist Norfolk heritage food and drink producer, Broadland Food and Beverage, by “buying or taking on the site, its staff, factories and brands”, should both businesses decide to leave.

The 55-year-old has approached both companies and believes a deal could be struck by agreeing not to compete with Unilever and Britvic’s other brands. He said the plans would benefit them by preserving their customer loyalty and reputation in East Anglia.

“I am sure Unilever don’t want to leave a trail of closed factories behind them either,” he said.

Mr Lansley said he had sounded out other senior business figures and would look to use his contacts with UK supermarkets to help the new business succeed.

Mr Lansley took over Broadland Wineries after it went into administration in 2006. The company imports, exports, bottles and distributes wines across the world, and is a member of the EDP Top 100 list of Norfolk and Suffolk’s biggest companies.

He said: “I took Broadland from minus £6m to £8m in net assets – I’ve been there before.

“I have a lot of contacts in the supermarkets so a food and drink business is something I would be interested in exploring.”

Britvic has said it is in consultation with workers and its proposals are still not set in stone.

Unilever has said it is carrying out a review and will announce its decision by the end of November.

A spokesman said: “We are considering a range of options for the future of the site but we have been clear that Britvic’s withdrawal would have serious implications for our factory.”

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