Hi-tech mustard mill is reaching new customers around the world
- Credit: Neil Didsbury
Demand for Norfolk-grown mustard is heating up around the world after major new global deals were struck by a state-of-the-art mill outside Norwich.
It was developed by a consortium of East Anglian mustard and mint growers to maintain their proud, historic links with the Colman's brand, after manufacturer Unilever left its factory at Carrow Works in Norwich.
The mill is one of only three of its kind in the world able to process mustard seed into a “double superfine” flour.
Initially the flour was produced solely for Unilever, to be sold in tins or used as the signature ingredient in Colman’s mustard paste, now made in Burton-on-Trent.
But now Condimentum has secured new contracts as it seeks to maximise the capacity of the mill, capable of processing 6,000 tonnes of mustard seed per year – only a third of which is needed to meet demand from Unilever.
Chief executive David Martin said: "We started with just Unilever, but we always intended to grow the business and broaden the customer base, as well as the range of ingredients we are offering. Unilever has always been supportive of that.
"We have been able to engage with a couple of really big corporate multi-nationals.
"We have been awarded a global tender to supply mustard-related products to South America, Costa Rica, Australia, Thailand and east and west Europe. And we are in the process of getting formal approval from another big corporation.
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"So we are ahead of the curve with what we wanted to do. It has really gathered pace.
"Although it is difficult to say when we will be at full capacity, we would like to think that over the next two or three years we will get closer to using a significant proportion of the mill's spare capacity."
Mr Martin said demand is currently being driven by a global shortage of mustard, partly due to droughts and reduced crop areas in Canada, which is "by far the largest global exporter of mustard, 30 times bigger than the UK".
A long-term exclusivity deal with Unilever means the exact specifications which give Colman's mustard its distinctive taste would never be reproduced for any other customer, said Mr Martin.
But different blends of flour are being produced as ingredients for hot sauces, mayonnaise and curries around the world.
And the continued production growth could mean more mustard being grown in Norfolk and the Fens.
"The business is owned by the Norfolk mustard and mint growers, so I can talk to them directly if we need them to grow more to meet the demand," said Mr Martin.