UK may cease to be the centre of chocolate universe for Mars

By Susan Birks

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Mars incorporated

UK may cease to be the centre of chocolate universe for Mars
More confectionery production could be at risk of export

More than 70 years of making Mars bars in the UK could end as privately-owned Masterfoods considers shifting production.

The company said it was reviewing its "sales growth, manufacturing capacity, overheads and ways of working", in response to market challenges.

The outcome could affect 1,200 administrative and 500 factory workers at Masterfoods' Liverpool Road and Dundee Road sites in Slough, who were informed of the review by letter in January.

Michael Jenkins, external affairs director for Masterfoods, said the six to eight week review was not focused on Slough: "We are carrying out a pan-European consultation that concerns Masterfoods Europe and covers 11,000 employees." The firm also has a central European group, which includes a Polish factory.

The latest announcement is another blow to the UK confectionery industry, which has already witnessed Kraft's transfer of Terry's chocolate production to Sweden and Poland and cuts by Cadbury Schweppes at its Bourneville plant in Birmingham.

Frank Loveday, regional organiser for the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, said the fact that it was cheaper to make chocolate in Poland and ship it to the UK was worrying and that "concerns were growing" among members, especially as the lease on the Liverpool Road site was due to expire soon.

Britons still eat 10kg of chocolate each a year -- nearly twice the European average -- but overall sales rose by just 1% in 2004, said Datamonitor. Thorntons, for example, recently reported disappointing Christmas sales.

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