Colman’s celebrates 200 years

This month, Colman’s is celebrating its bicentenary, just seven years after the future of the UK’s only home-grown spice came under serious threat.

Norwich has been the home of Colman’s mustard for 200 years. The factory now employs over 120 people and each year more than 2,000 tonnes of mustard seed is dried, dressed and milled into flour on site. However, just seven years ago the future looked very different for English mustard and its growers. Colman’s was faced with the prospect of importing far more ¬foreign seeds, jeopardising its right to continue labelling its mustard ‘English’.

While today 100 per cent of the white seed that is used to make Colman’s English Mustard comes from Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk, in 2007 growers based in these areas had one of their worst crop yields on record. This was down to years of lack of investment in plant breeding, dwindling harvests and poor weather. 

Meeting with the growers, Unilever agreed to invest £20,000 into agronomy support and into DNA testing research work at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. The brand’s bicentenary year, 2014, was set as the deadline to see if they could turn the tide. If they did not succeed, they decided they would no longer grow mustard. Thankfully they did and the English mustard market is still alive and thriving.

Michael Sly, Chairman of English Mustard Growers, a co-operative formed in 2007 said, “Our families have been growing mustard for more than 100 years. With so much heritage at stake we had no choice but to try and save the Colman's crop. Its continuing survival is due to hard work and determination on the part of all of English Mustard Growers and Unilever.’’

David Pendlington, Procurement Operations Director - Sustainable Sourcing at Unilever said, “Colman’s English Mustard is one of Unilever’s finest examples of local, sustainable sourcing in the UK. English Mustard Growers have played a critical role in making Colman’s mustard a great English brand. We are very proud that our partnership with the growers continues today to ensure that the mustard seeds we use in Colman’s are sourced locally – keeping its Englishness intact. This is an excellent example of Unilever’s commitment to investing in growers with who we work in a responsible and collaborative way.’’

Colman’s factory manager, Andy Watts, said, “We feel very proud to be celebrating such a significant milestone. Colman’s is synonymous with Norwich and our bicentenary is a wonderful opportunity to look back at our history in the area and remember where it all began - with Jeremiah Colman’s tinned mustard flour, which still graces kitchen cupboards all around the country today.

Many of our Norwich employees have worked at the factory for years and years – and many even have parents and grandparents who were involved in mustard milling at the site, so we feel very proud of our Norwich heritage.”

Colman’s today:

  • Colman’s English Mustard achieves its distinctive heat from a combination on milled white (Sinapis Alba) and brown (Brassica Juncea) mustard seeds.
  • White seeds are larger in size and lighter in colour, they have a hot heat. Brown seeds are smaller and give some heat but also more depth of flavour.
  • 100% of white mustard seed is sourced from the UK.
  • Brown mustard seed is sourced from UK and Canada.
  • Mustard seed harvest in the UK normally takes place between August – October depending on the British weather.
  • All 19 of the English Mustard growers are participating in a jointly funded project with Unilever assessing pollen and nectar availability on their farms, to understand the practical improvements the growers can make for bees.


About Unilever:

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Food, Home and Personal Care products with sales in over 190 countries. We work with 174,000 colleagues around the world and generated annual sales of €49.8 billion in 2013. Over half of our company’s footprint is in the faster growing developing and emerging markets (57% in 2013). 

Working to create a better future every day, we help people feel good, look good and get more out of life. Our portfolio includes some of the world’s best known brands, 14 of which - Knorr, Persil / Omo, Dove, Sunsilk, Hellmann’s, Surf, Lipton, Rexona / Sure, Wall’s ice cream, Lux, Flora / Becel, Rama / Blue Band, Magnum and Axe / Lynx - now generate a turnover of €1 billion or more.

Our ambition is to double the size of our business, whilst reducing our overall environmental footprint (including sourcing, consumer use and disposal) and increasing our positive social impact. We are committed to helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being, sourcing all our agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020, and decoupling our growth from our environmental impact. Supporting our three big goals, we have defined nine commitments, underpinned by targets encompassing social, environmental and economic areas. See more on the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan at

Unilever has been recognised in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Indexes for 14 consecutive years. We are included in the FTSE4Good Index Series and attained a top environmental score of 5, leading to inclusion in the FTSE4Good Environmental Leaders Europe 40 Index. Unilever has been named sector leader of the CDP’s Forests programme for three consecutive years, and in 2014 led the list of Global Corporate Sustainability Leaders in the GlobeScan/SustainAbility annual survey - for the fourth year running. Unilever was named LinkedIn’s third most sought-after employer worldwide in 2013.

For more information about Unilever and its brands, please visit

Ioanna Leoussi

M: 07741 290458

Explore more on these topics:

Back to top


We're always looking to connect with those who share an interest in a sustainable future.


Get in touch with Unilever PLC and specialist teams in our headquarters, or find contacts around the world.

Contact us