'Our mustard will still be Colman's of Norwich' - work begins on major mill to retain Norfolk's mustard heritage
PUBLISHED: 18:33 14 May 2019 | UPDATED: 18:33 14 May 2019
Construction work has started on a state-of-the-art mustard mill which will retain Norwich's proud and historic links with the Colman's brand.
The new facility, near the A47 west of the city, will be the only one of its kind in Europe - and the first major tenant at the Norwich Food Enterprise Park, which is beginning to take shape near Easton.
It marks the start of a new chapter for Colman's after its manufacturer, Unilever, was forced to look for a new home when drinks firm Britvic announced it was leaving the two companies' shared site at Carrow Works in October 2017.
While that will end Colman's 160-year association with the site when it closes later this year, it also galvanised the region's mustard and mint growers to find a way to preserve their long-standing relationship with the famous brand - prompting the formation of a new farming consortium called Condimentum.
And the 10-year supply deal between Condimentum and Unilever was celebrated at a ground-breaking ceremony which also marked the start of construction work on the 25,000sqft milling facility which is due to be completed by the end of 2019.
The new facility will process around 5,000 tonnes of mustard seed annually, as well as 1,000 tonnes of fresh Norfolk-grown mint leaves, and will supply double super-fine mustard flour and blended mint for Colman's condiments.
While the production of retail jars of finished mustard will be taken out of the county, the Colman's supply line from East Anglian growers will continue as it has for generations.
Fenland mustard grower Michael Sly, a director of Condimentum and chairman of English Mustard Growers Co-operative, said: "Many of our growers have been growing for five generations or more - one family has been growing since the 1880s, so there is a deep sense of history within many of these businesses and we want that to continue.
"I feel extremely proud of what we have achieved so far to get to this point with the ground-breaking. It is something that you could get a little emotional about and when the first mustard flour is milled on this site and packed in that first tin, I think you will find me sat there with a box of tissues because the sheer emotional energy to get to this point has been enormous."
Jon Strachan, vice president of supply chain for Unilever in the UK and Ireland, said the company was "absolutely committed" to maintaining Colman's Norfolk links, and that Norwich would remain a key part of its branding.
"Our mustard will absolutely still be Colman's of Norwich," he said. "Retaining that link with the local area here is critically important, and not just for nostalgia. The growers here know exactly the right quality of product we need, and they are able to deliver it year in, year out. So there are lots of very sound business reasons to want to maintain that relationship as well."
READ MORE: Norwich Colman's Mustard factory to close with production moving out of Norfolk
David Martin, chief executive of Condimentum, said 25 people would be working at the site when it is operational by the end of the year, which could offer employment opportunities to some of the workers facing redundancy from the Carrow factory.
"We are delighted to be building a new facility, the only one of its kind in Europe, that will ensure the traditional milling of mustard is retained in Norwich," he said. "This will result in the creation of jobs in the local area and will provide the opportunity for the growers to build a business that the region can be proud of."
Chris Starkie, chief executive of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said the LEP had invested £1m in the infrastructure for the Food Enterprise Park, and a £400,000 grant to help Condimentum build its new factory.
"Local growers have been supplying mint and mustard seeds to Colman's for over 100 years so there is a great connection, history and heritage that can carry on," he said. "The new Food Enterprise Park at Honingham will benefit from these links and it will put Condimentum in good stead for the future.
"Having an anchor tenant in place will show the Food Enterprise Park is open for businesses and hopefully other food businesses will want to set up here as well."