As part of a process to restructure its European operations, the confectionery giant Mars has decided to close one of its UK sites and move production of some leading brands to other parts of Europe. While a certain amount of resulting short term flak is inevitable, Mars' decision to retain its other major UK plant means it should avoid too much damage to its brands in the long run.

Mars, one of the largest privately-owned companies in the world, has diverse interests including pet foods and consumer electronics, but the main foundation of its business remains chocolate confectionery, particularly its popular countlines such as Twix, Snickers and the eponymous Mars bar. The company reportedly intends to move production of certain products away from the UK as part of its plan to restructure its operations in Europe.

Production of Twix bars will be moved to facilities in France and Germany and Starburst to the Czech Republic. The reorganization will lead the loss of 700 jobs in the UK and the closure of a confectionery factory in Slough. There will still be Mars confectionery products made in the UK however. Mars' second site on Dundee Road in Slough will manufacture Mars, Snickers and the Maltesers line.

Mars' move is the latest in a number of similar decisions made by other confectionery and snack food companies. Last year, Kraft shut down its site in York and is in the process of moving production to Sweden, Slovakia, Belgium and Poland. Nestle and Cadbury-Schweppes have also reduced their UK workforces recently.

In the context of the UK's declining manufacturing base overall, and the general trend towards globalization in manufacturing industries, the Slough job losses come as little surprise. Indeed, the company should not suffer too much adverse publicity form the switch as it is at least retaining a meaningful presence in the UK by investing in its other Slough plant.

Mars may also benefit from the fact that consumers' emotional attachment to the 'Britishness' of its brands is arguably less obvious than that placed, for example, on Nestle-Rowntree's products, such as Kit Kat or Smarties, which have been manufactured in York for decades and has been the subject of much debate when Nestle has suggested changes to production patterns in the past.

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