Colman’s is a household name and iconic heritage brand.
Our history dates back to 1814 when Jeremiah Colman, a flour miller, took over a mustard manufacturing business based at Stoke Holy Cross, four miles south of Norwich. In 1823 Jeremiah and his adopted nephew James established J & J Colman which flourished. Best known for mustard, the company made flour, starch, laundry blue and cornflour.
James’ son Jeremiah James Colman later took over the company which moved to its present location at Carrow, Norwich. J. J. Colman was a visionary, and his ideas on employment and social welfare were years ahead of his time. He built a subsidised school for his employee’s children almost twenty years before parliament made any form of education compulsory and employed Philippa Flowerday, one of the very first industrial nurses, to help sick employees.
The Carrow site expanded and by the 1880s 2,200 people worked there and another 4,000 earned their living directly through the company. The company acquired several mustard manufacturers including rival Keen Robinson & Company in 1903 and in 1938 the company merged with Reckitt & Sons, growing to become one of the UK’s most successful businesses. The Colman’s brand was purchased by Unilever UK & Ireland in 1995. All Colman’s mustard products continue to be made at Carrow in Norwich to this day.
In 1973 the Mustard Shop was opened to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Colman’s. It was originally based in Bridewell Alley and has been in the Royal Arcade since 1999. Ten years later it was taken over by Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART). Today it is one of Norwich’s most popular and cherished tourist attractions, popular with locals and visitors alike.
About the Colman's brand
Jeremiah James Colman’s genius lay in the marketing and publicity of his products. He arranged for renowned company Doulton to supply cafés and restaurants with mustard pots displaying the famous bull’s head trademark. The company’s railway wagons bore the logo and were painted yellow. Promotional objects also made Colman a household name.
The familiar bull's head logo first appeared on the company's English Mustard in 1855. Introduced as the firm's trademark, the bull's head remains a symbol of both tradition and quality. In 1866 the distinctive red and yellow livery was introduced to the label and remains distinctive and recognisable today.
During the early 19th century Colman's became aware of the enormous dividends to be reaped from investment in advertising. They are perhaps best known for posters by Hassall, Aldin, and Gilroy. John Hassall (1868-1948) is best remembered for his Klondyke posters. Gilroy in the 1920's and Septimus Scott in the 1930's managed to combine a personal style with a flair for communicating directly with the public.
An enormously successful campaign that in many ways was years ahead of its time was The Mustard Club, an advertising campaign that ran from 1926 to 1933. It was effectively a teaser campaign which really caught people’s imagination. The first adverts appeared as bus posters asking "Has father joined the Mustard Club?" Later a department with 10 girls was established to deal with the 2,000 applications a day to join the club.
In many ways it was one of the first brands to use 'guerrilla marketing', through a teaser campaign that caught the country's imagination. In the early 1920s Colman's advertising agent, Bensons, came up with the idea of the Mustard Club - a fictitious club that Colman's users could join. The agent set about posting notes on buses asking 'Has Father Joined the Mustard Club?' Eventually there were card games and a club newsletter. It was almost certainly one of the first examples of an integrated campaign. All Mustard Club members could apply for a badge - and by the time the club closed in 1933, 500,000 had been given away.