Hundreds of jobs are in jeopardy at a historic production site where Robinsons squash and Colman’s Mustard have been made for decades.
Britvic has announced plans to close its factory in Norwich, where Robinsons has been made for more than 90 years, putting 242 jobs at risk.
The company said it planned to transfer production of Robinsons and another drink, Fruit Shoot, away from Norwich to sites in east London, Leeds and Rugby.
That prompted Unilever, owner of Colman’s Mustard, to launch a review of its own production at the same site, with options including the “potential closure” of the plant – where the brand has been made since the nineteenth century.
Unilever, which employs 113 people in Norwich, said Colman’s “has been an important part of Norwich and the surrounding area for more than 200 years” and that it would work hard to retain the link.
But it said it and Britvic’s operations at the site were “uniquely intertwined” with a shared infrastructure and that Britvic’s withdrawal “would have serious implications for Unilever in Norwich”.
Robinsons squash first moved to its factory in the city in 1925. The popular brand is well known to tennis fans through its sponsorship of the Wimbledon Championships.
Chief executive Simon Litherland said: “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.”
Britvic said the aim was to improve efficiency and productivity and the plans would see the site close towards the end of 2019.
Mr Litherland also said there would be environmental benefits and that it was part of wider changes to ensure the company had the “flexibility and capability” to respond to changing consumer trends.
The company said affected employees would be offered support including redeployment at other sites and services to find alternative employment.
Costs related to the closure will be detailed in Britvic’s annual results in November.
The group said it remained committed to a three-year £240m investment in its British manufacturing operations, announced in 2015.
Rhys McCarthy, national officer at trade union Unite, said: “The sad news that Britvic is closing its operations in Norwich also has an impact on Unilever workers who the share the same site.
“The whole of Norfolk needs to come together to fight for the future of Colman’s Mustard that is so identified with the city of Norwich. Colman’s is in the DNA of the city.”