THE colours have changed, and the iconic tube is no more. But they still have the answer - seven decades on.

Smarties, one of York's most famed inventions and one of Rowntree's most enduring products, turned 70 on Saturday.

The popular coloured sweets began life in 1937, with the less imaginative name Chocolate Beans. But an inspired rethink saw them renamed, and on May 31, 1938, Smarties went on sale for the first time.

Originally, Smarties came in dark brown, green, light brown, orange, pink, violet and yellow. The dark brown sweet had a plain chocolate centre, the light brown one a coffee centre, and the orange one an orange-flavoured centre.

But as a result of consumer research this was changed, and milk chocolate was used for all except the orange sweet.

The blue Smartie, which was already available in mainland Europe, was added to UK packs in 1988, to mark the sweets' 50th birthday. It was later removed, but has now been reintroduced.

Although the anniversary is likely to raise a smile with many former workers at Rowntree and Nestlé Rowntree in York, many will still rue the decision last year to remove production from their original home.

The final York-produced packs rolled out of Wigginton Road in December, with production moving to Hamburg in Germany.

Trade unionists argued that iconic York products, including Smarties, should be kept in the city, but later reluctantly accepted Nestlé's rationale for moving production abroad.

Two years earlier, the confectionery giant had ditched the distinctive cylindrical tube, replacing it with hexagonal packaging in what it called an "exciting" relaunch. It has also since removed artificial colours and flavours, following concerns of the effect of additives.

Recently, Smarties have been given pride of place at the Victoria & Albert Museum, where a number of pieces of art, including Andy Warhol's famous portrait of Marilyn Monroe, were recreated in Smarties.