Reckitt & Colman sells foods arm to Unilever

Two of Britain's best known brands changed hands yesterday when Reckitt & Colman, makers of Colmans mustard since 1814, sold its food business to Unilever for £250m. In turn Unilever is selling on the Robinsons soft drinks business - best known for Robinsons Barley Water - to Bass for £103m.

The deal not only severs Reckitt & Colman's links with its eponymous mustard but its ties with Norwich, where James and Jeremiah Colman first started making mustard 181 years ago.

Both Unilever and Bass have pledged to keep production in the East Anglian city but it is already clear that there will be redundancies among the 660 staff. Production staff will be retained but some marketing, administration and other managerial functions are likely to go.

David Saltmarsh, Reckitt's company secretary, said: "There's clearly an element of regret but business moves on and the Reckitt & Colman strategy is concerned with household products and toiletries. Food products are not as internationally marketable."

Reckitt & Colman put its food business up for sale in September following its $1.55bn acquisition of L&F Household, Eastman Kodak's household products division whose brands include Lysol disinfectant and Mop and Glo floor polish. Reckitt, whose portfolio includes Dettol and Harpic, still hopes to raise a further £150m from disposals of peripheral US interests. Reckitt's only remaining food brand is French's, an American mustard which the company intends to keep. The UK food business, which includes OK sauces and Jif fruit juices as well as the better known mustards, had sales of £60m last year. There had been speculation that the quintessentially English Colmans mustard would follow the likes of HP sauce and Bovril into the hands of a foreign buyer. Danone, the French group was one group that had expressed an interest.

Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch maker of Flora margarine and Persil, will continue to market Colmans chiefly in the UK but also attempt to boost its export potential, where sales are restricted to Ireland and the US. Unilver says the Colman's range of cooking sauces will fit well with its sauce range, which includes Ragu and Chicken Tonight. The food business had sales of around £60m last year.

Bass will add the Robinsons soft drinks business to its Britvic brand. The Robinsons products achieved sales of £95m last year. Bass chairman Sir Ian Prosser said that after all the one-off costs, the deal was likely to prove earnings neutral for Britvic in this financial year. He added that there were substantial synergies between the Britvic and Robinsobn brands. Britvic, for example, is strong in the convenience store sector where Robinsons is under-represented.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture