Britvic set to sever final link with eastern region with closure of Norwich factory

The entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory.
Picture: Nick Butcher

The entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Soft drinks group Britvic has announced plans to close its factory in Norwich – ending an association with the eastern counties stretching back more than 150 years.

The Britvic tower at Widford, Chelmsford.

The Britvic tower at Widford, Chelmsford.

Production of the Robinsons and Fruit Shoot drinks which are currently made at the plant, is to be transferred to other manufacturing sites in London, Leeds and Rugby.

In a statement, Britvic said the 242 employees at the site will be offered opportunities to work at other group sites and services to help them find alternative employment. Subject to consultation, the plant is expected to close towards the end of 2019.

Britvic chief executive Simon Litherland said the move would “present significant productivity and efficiency savings” in its manufacturing operations and deliver “environmental benefits”.

“Britvic is proud to be a British manufacturer and Norwich has been an important site for our business for many years,” he said. “This is not a proposal that we make lightly and we know this is upsetting news for our colleagues.

“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.”

Colman’s mustard maker Unilever, which co-owns the site with Britvic, said it will now review the future of its factory there – which could spell the end of more than a century of production on the site.

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Closure of the Britvic factory in Norwich would end a link between the company and the eastern region dating from the mid-19th Century when a Chelmsford chemist began making homemade soft drinks.

The business flourished, helped by the launch of a range of soft drinks intended as an affordable source of vitamins, and this gave rise in 1949 to a new name, British Vitamin Products, which was later shorted to create the Britvic brand.

A major new factory was built at Widford, on the edge of Chelmsford, in 1954, where the Britvic clock tower, built at the same time, became a well-known local landmark. Other brands acquired by the group included Tango and R Whites (both in 1986) and Robinsons (in 1995).

In 2012, however, Britvic relocated its head office team from Chelmsford to Hemel Hempstead, in Hertfordshire, and production at the Widford factory ended 2014. The site is now being redeveloped as a retail park.