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Nestlé shifts Smarties production to Germany

First the hexagonal tube, now this...

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It's enough to have any true patriot choking into his or her beef pie of olde England: Nestlé has announced that it has decided to shift Smarties production from York to Hamburg, in the process axing 645 jobs at the Rowntree chocolate factory which it acquired in 1988.

According to The Guardian, the Swiss food and drink monolith declared it "had been forced to shut down the antiquated five-storey Victorian building at its plant in York and move production elsewhere in Europe to safeguard the remaining 1,800 jobs at the factory".

The Rowntree closure brings to an end 70 years of UK Smarties production, which began in York in 1937. To compound the outrage, Dairy Box production will be moved to Spain, while Black Magic will henceforth be a Czech Republic delicacy.

Nestlé UK chief exec, Alistair Sykes, said in a statement: "The UK confectionery market is extremely competitive and Nestlé Rowntree must therefore ensure its operations are cost effective."

Nestlé added it would invest £20m to improve production facilities at the Yorkshire plant - the company's biggest production facility. The old Rowntree factory faces demolition and replacement by "a development including residential units, allowing Nestlé to benefit from high house prices in York".

The GMB union called the announcement "a bleak day for York", and pledged to battle the lay-offs. The union's organiser for members in York, John Kirk, said: "Nestlé failed to invest adequately in the plant and building in York. To use this neglect as the reason to move heritage brands to plants overseas, where [it] did invest, is not acceptable."

City of York Labour MP Hugh Bayley was more pragmatic: "Manufacturing has to change to survive. If it doesn't change, more jobs would be lost." Regarding the imminent demise of the Rowntree factory, Bayley added: "It would be dreadful to be sentimental about an old building if it put jobs at risk."

Nestlé said it hoped the majority of the 645 workers for the chop would opt for voluntary redundancy or early retirement. ®

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