Friday, December 01, 2006

Nestlé to swallow Gerber baby food?

It is being reported that Nestlé is in negotiations to by the Gerber baby food company from Novartis for £1.5 billion. Some of the reporting at least is flagging up the Nestlé boycott and the company’s record of breaking international marketing standards. This is what it says in The Times (see,,13130-2479016,00.html):

Nestlé has a strong global franchise in baby milk and also owns babyfood brands such as Alete and Beba. In the past Nestlé has faced criticism over its aggressive marketing of baby milk products, especially in developing countries. Campaigners claim that this has contributed to unnecessary death and suffering of infants and have led a boycott against the company.

Yes, indeed. See

But there are two aspects of this story that have not yet been reported.

As a company marketing baby foods and feeding bottles and teats, Gerber policies and practices should be in line with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly. It is required to comply with these measures independently of government measures. As Baby Milk Action's September 2006 Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet shows, Gerber continues to violate these measures in a systematic way. See

In the Philippines Gerber is one of a coalition of pharmaceutical companies that has taken the Government to the Supreme Court to challenge new regulations on the marketing of baby foods. Nestlé is not part of the legal action, but is opposed to the ban on promotion of products for babies up to two years of age. Publicly, and misleadingly, Nestlé claims it is supporting the new regulations. A question to ask Nestlé if the takeover goes ahead is will it withdraw Gerber from the legal action against the Philippines regulations? Will it also drop its opposition to the ban on promotion in the new regulations? See

Despite the action in the Philippines, Novartis, the present owner of Gerber, recently gave undertakings that it would change its practices to bring its marketing of baby foods, bottles and teats into line with the Code and Resolutions and was admitted to the FTSE4Good listing on this basis (see the blog entry Baby Milk Action was taking a 'wait and see' approach to this news, noting that violations continue (and I've just checked the Gerber site today and prohibited promotion continues there). We fear that if Nestlé, the worst of the baby food companies, purchases Gerber then the changes will not be made. Nestlé puts its own profits before infant health and, as a recent Guardian profile of the Chief Executive confirms, is dismissive of criticism (see blog entry

Nestlé is the target of a boycott launched by groups in 20 countries because of its aggressive marketing practices. An independent survey last year found Nestlé to be one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet. In a global internet vote coinciding with the World Economic Forum in 2005 Nestlé was voted to be the 'least responsible company'.

We haven’t done a press release about this just yet, but if any journalist is looking for a quote, here is one.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, said: "Monitoring of Gerber's marketing of baby foods, feeding bottles and teats shows ongoing violations of the World Health Assembly marketing requirements. Recently Novartis indicated it would bring it practices into line but, given Nestlé's appalling record, we cannot see this promise being delivered if Gerber is taken over. Nestlé already dominates the market and is responsible for more violations of the marketing requirements than any other company, making it the target of the international boycott."

For further information contact Patti Rundall in the UK on 07786 523493 and see


Mike Brady said...

For an update see Nestlé, Novartis Medical Foods, Gerber and food for thought.

Mike Brady said...

It was announced on 12 April 2007 that Nestlé had bought Gerber.

See my my blog entry

Timothy Jones said...

Wow!! Thats an intersting piece of news. However, No artificial baby food can match the wholesomeness of breast milk, be it Nestle, Gerber or any other!!

Anonymous said...

Nestle Franchise growth is very intensive in US: from 25 franchises in 25 in 2003 to 93 in 2007 (business franchise information)