A MAJOR link with York's past has been severed with news that Nestlé is all but abandoning the Rowntree name.

Almost 20 years after it acquired Rowntree, the company has revealed its Nestlé Rowntree confectionery division will now trade under the name Nestlé Confectionery (UK).

Managing director Paul Grimwood said in a statement to The Press the change happened earlier this week.

He said while the company was extremely proud of its association with the Rowntree heritage, it was both a major exporter and a major importer within the Nestlé worldwide confectionery organisation - "and our division's name should better reflect what we do".

But he added: "Consum-ers are already very familiar with the Nestlé brand on many of our products and Rowntree's remains the brand name on all of our sugar confectionery."

In an internal email to staff, which has been passed to The Press, Mr Grimwood said Nestlé Rowntree had now completed two years of a successful three-year "fit for the future" business improvement programme.

"We have renewed our focus on our core competency - producing quality confectionery - and we have restructured our business so that it is fast, flexible and streamlined," he said.

He also revealed the company had a heritage assistant, who was compiling a comprehensive company archive and looking at ways of sharing its history both with employees and within the communities.

"This is a very positive step forward and a demonstration of the company's commitment to the confectionery business," he said.

City of York Council leader Steve Galloway said while the change of name might "disappoint some traditionalists," he was pleased the Rowntree name would continue as a "brand identifier."

He revealed he was set to tell councillors tonight a new Aero plant at the Nestlé site was nearing completion.

"The substantial investment guarantees Nestlé confectionery production in the city for the foreseeable future and will underpin the excellent trading results achieved by Paul Grimwood and his team.

"They are rightly proud of the progress that they have made with what is still a key industry for the city."

David Scott, the council's Labour group leader, said the change of name was a "real shame, given the importance of the Rowntree name to York and the people that live here," and he was sad to see it go.

He said: "Residents of York will not easily forget the legacy of the great family name.

"But it is unsurprising Nestlé has decided to do this.

"A company's primary objective is to maximise profits and Nestle obviously feel the inclusion of Rowntree in the name gives it a less modern public image."

Family's dismay at the end of an era'

A MEMBER of York's Rowntree family today spoke of her sadness at Nestlé's decision to jettison the name - but insisted that the Rowntree legacy would continue for ever.

Janet Rowntree, of Escrick, married a great-grandson of Joseph Rowntree, the Quaker philanthropist who built the chocolate factory in Haxby Road as well as providing decent homes for workers at the nearby model village of New Earswick.

She said today of the name change: "I find it sad really. It's the end of an era. I feel it's a shame.

"But the Rowntree legacy will live forever. The name will live on in people's memories, and through the trusts which do such wonderful work and through the schools which bear the name.

"You can still see the Rowntree name on buses and signs in the city too. To some people, it will always be Rowntree."

Janet, a York Quaker herself, spoke of the way that Rowntree had looked after its employees, in sickness and in health.

Meanwhile, Sir Donald Barron, who was chairman of Rowntree Mackintosh from 1966-1981 and subsequently chairman of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation between 1981 and 1996, said today of Nestlé's decision to drop Rowntree from its name: "It does seem a rather insensitive and one would think unnecessary thing to do. But it is perhaps recognition that the operation at York is different in character from the pre-takeover organisation.

"Perhaps more important is that the valuable brand names which Rowntree skills developed in York and made famous will continue to prosper."

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