The European unit of US confectionery giant Mars is reportedly considering a restructuring of its operations that could lead to its withdrawal from chocolate production in the UK.

The secretive family-owned company has told staff it is launching a Europe-wide consultation to "address sales growth, manufacturing capacity, and overheads and ways of working", reported The Sunday Times.

The comments came in response to rumours that the maker of Mars bars, Snickers and M&Ms is planning to close its chocolate factory in Slough, which employs 500 people. Slough is also home to the company's European headquarters, where it has 1,200 administrative staff.

"We need to ensure that our business constantly adapts and responds to the competitive landscape," Pierre Laubies, the Slough-based president of the European business, was quoted by The Sunday Times as saying.