Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, November 26, 2004


Page 8



Colman’s English Mustard Boasts 190-Year History




It was in 1814 in Norfolk, England that Jeremiah Colman went into the mustard business. Colman’s English Mustard is, of course, still manufactured. Available in the United States since the 1880s, it’s going strong here, as in England, and elsewhere across the globe.

In 1938, Colman joined forces with Reckitt & Sons to form Reckitt & Colman Ltd., which in 2000 became Reckitt Benckiser.

So, what brand of mustard is manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser? This probably seems like a question on a par with “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?”

Actually, Reckitt Benckiser, descendant of the company owned by Jeremiah Colman, does not produce Colman’s mustard. The Colman product line was purchased in 1995 by Unilever, a Dutch-English conglomerate.

But Reckitt Benckiser does make a mustard. That English firm owns French’s mustard—a mustard originated in the U.S., with no tie whatsoever to France.

And Grey Poupon, a Dijon mustard, is produced here in Pennsylvania, and is owned by Altria Group (formerly called Philip Morris).

Okay, one brand at a time. Let’s start with Colman’s.

Jeremiah Colman on April 3, 1814 leased a watermill. On April 30 and May 7 of that year, an ad in the Norfolk Chronicle announced:

“Having taken the Stock & Trade lately carried on by Mr. EDWARD AMES, respectfully informs his Customers & the Public in general that he will continue the Manufacturing of MUSTARD; & he begs leaver to assure those who may may be pleased to favour him with their orders that they shall be supplied in such a manner as cannot fail to secure their approbation.”

What he sold was dry mustard—the powder sifted from mustard seeds, with the husks and bran removed. Colman used white and black seeds. White ones are mild, brown are more pungent, and black are strong. For the past several decades, however, brown and white seeds have gone into the mixture.

In 1823, Colman brought his eldest nephew into the company, adopting him as his son. J & J Colman was formed, later to become J & J Colman Ltd.

It could well be said that the product goes back even further than 1814. After all, Jeremiah Colman took over the business of Ames, who had been making mustard. Too, in 1903, J & J Colman Ltd. absorbed a company that had been was in the mustard business since 1747, operating at its inception as Keen & Sons.

A 2002 article in the British magazine “Marketing” said of Colman’s Mustard:

“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....All Mustard Club members could apply for a badge—and by the time the club closed in 1933, 500,000 had been given away.”

“The Mustard Cookbook” by Sally and Martin Stone (1981) noted that the club’s secret password was “Pass the Mustard,” and that “[t]here was a Mustard Club Recipe Book written by the famous English mystery writer Dorothy L. Sayers.”

The article in “Marketing” recounted:

“The 1980s saw one of its most memorable ads, with upper class Brits having a picnic on a French beach only to find that the butler has forgotten the Colman’s.

“ ‘Damn long swim back to England,’ says one of the party as the butler begins to wade into the water.”

Colman’s English Mustard comes in two forms. There’s the original dry mustard (in a yellow tin) which attains full flavor about 10 minutes after water is added. It’s similar to Chinese mustard, though the latter is made solely from brown seeds.

And, there’s Colman’s prepared mustard in a jar or a tube, sharp but smooth, with a touch of sweetness.

The website of Waitrose, which owns 160 supermarkets in the United Kingdom, says that ready-made mustard was “first sold by Colman’s in 1907, potted in stone jars.”

The ingredients of Colman’s prepared mustard, as they appear on jars (now glass) sold in the UK, are: “Water, Mustard Flour, Sugar, Salt, Wheat-flour, Spice, Citric acid.” The same ingredients are used in the version marketed here, except that in place of undefined “spice,” tumeric is listed.

Tumeric is as much of a dye as a spice, turning foods yellow. It’s what lends yellow coloring to French’s and other American mustards, and it’s used by Colman’s to Americanize—or yellowize—the batches it exports to the United States.


Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company


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