IT is the sweet treat that was famously said to help you work, rest and play.

But now the humble Mars bar has a controversial new role: supporting the England football team.

As “official snack supplier” to the World Cup, Mars has produced millions of bars with wrappers bearing the squad’s famous Three Lions logo and the flag of St George.

But many of them have found their way across the border into Wales and shops throughout the region have them on their shelves.

The partisan packaging has already met a hostile reception from football fans in Scotland.

And now supporters of local culture and heritage have criticised Mars’ strategy – with one going so far as to say the bars are part of the “colonisation” of Wales.

Pol Wong of the People’s Council for North Wales, which has campaigned against cross-border links with England, said: “I can see this would offend some people. It doesn’t offend me but just makes me a little bit sad.

“Mars would not be be selling their bars with England wrappers in France, Spain or America so why are they on sale in Wales? Just because we are next door to England people have the attitude we are just another English region but we are a separate country.”

He added: “There are large stores in the centre of Wrexham with England displays for the World Cup and this, along with what Mars are doing, is all part of the colonisation of Wales.

“It is insensitive and disrespectful to us.”

Cllr Marc Jones, Plaid Cymru leader on Wrexham Council, said: “I don’t think my party has an official policy on Mars bars but, speaking in a personal capacity, I agree that a lot of people would take offence at the England wrappers being on sale here.

“There is an assumption that in the World Cup everyone will support England but that isn’t the case.

“In fact, during the last World Cup in Germany many Wrexham FC supporters were backing Trinidad and Tobago because one of their players, Dennis Lawrence, was in the national team.”

Another Plaid Cymru councillor, Queensway member Carrie Harper, said: “It’s not only Mars who are being insensitive towards Wales at the moment. There are big England displays at a number of shops and stores in the town.

“But there are a lot of other teams in the World Cup apart from England. I think the Mars wrappers will offend a lot of people - they show a lack of respect to Wales.

“It is worrying they do not acknowledge the fact that Wales is a different country.”

A survey by the Leader revealed many outlets in the Wrexham area were selling the themed bars.

Workers at Marchwiel Stores, on Bangor Road, said they had yet to receive feedback from customers regarding the bars, adding they had no choice as to whether they were able to stock the conventional packaging.

Manager Peter Lewis said: “The packaging hasn’t enhanced sales. I didn’t think it was a good idea when they announced they would be doing it.”

Nigel Lea, owner of Lea’s Newsagents, on Castle Street, Llangollen, said they had been given no choice as to which type of wrapping they had been able to stock.

A spokesman for Mars said the bars featuring the new wrapper are intended for distribution and sale in England only this summer.

He added: “Original Mars wrappers are available to all retailers and this is the case in Wales. We’ve gone to great efforts to give retailers the choice about which bars they stock.”