THE end of the tube is in sight for one of York's most famous sweets.

After 70 years, the last Smarties are set to roll off production lines in the city by the end of the year.

Nestlé Rowntree is to switch manufacturing of the chocolate snacks to a factory in the German city of Hamburg as part of a shake-up of its York operation which is expected to see the company shed 645 jobs and bring in new terms and conditions for remaining workers.

Smarties will be the latest household-name brand to leave the plant, where they were first made in 1937. Black Magic was lost to the Czech Republic and Dairy Box transferred to a plant in Spain earlier this year.

Production of Drifter bars has also moved to Castleford, while Matchmakers are now being made at Fawton, near Newcastle.

But several of Nestlé Rowntree's key products will continue to be made in York following the restructuring programme, including KitKat, Aero and Polo.

"Our plans to transfer production of Smarties to Hamburg are on schedule to take place by the end of the year," a Nestlé spokesman confirmed. "This is part of the company's planned changes to the York factory, announced last September, which include a £20m investment to expand the site's state-of-the-art facilities and safeguard long-term employment for more than 1,800 employees.

"We will continue to ensure the popular Smarties brand is enjoyed by our local consumers."

Nestlé bosses have defended the impact of the changes on its York workforce, saying they were necessary to make it "competitive and fit for the future" and safeguard the city's confectionary heritage.

The company also plans to sell off 40 per cent of the site - but keep the most significant buildings - to fund the investment programme in the remaining sections of the factory.

A blueprint for the site's future was published by City of York Council in January, looking at the possible creation of a conservation area and new housing development along Haxby Road. Planning applications are expected to be submitted to the council next spring.