THE company that makes Mars, Maltesers and Snicker bars is to shed 700 jobs and move production of some products overseas under plans to restructure its business.

In another blow for the UK's manufacturing industry, Masterfoods said 500 jobs will go at its plant in Slough, Berkshire, which has been making Mars bars since 1932, and a further 200 will go at the company's other plants in Leicestershire, Peterborough, Kings Lynn and Birstall, near Leeds.

The jobs will go by the end of the year, with volunteers being sought for redundancy and others being offered early retirement or retraining.

Production of the Mars bar will continue in Slough, but Starbursts will be made in Poland and the Twix and another product will move to Holland and Germany.

Pierre Laubies, president of Masterfoods Europe, said: "The proposals are all about growth and competitiveness. We need to be leaner and more focused.

''We aim to capture the engagement and dynamism of a small business with the benefits of international scale."

Union officials attacked the scale of the cutbacks and said workers had been shocked by the news.

But Slough Borough Council said it was hopeful the workers would find other jobs in the area and was pleased that Masterfoods would be investing an extra £45m in the local plant.

Frank Loveday, regional officer of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers' Union, said: "The company made £140m last year and just wants to make more. The managers have also been given huge pay increases. It is sick."