Thursday, June 07, 2007

Nestlé's action and inaction

Nestlé has a new marketing strategy in the United States. It is to get formula to mothers via fathers. This is from advice Nestlé will be promoting to fathers via a new initiative on its Very Best Baby website with "Daddy-Guru Armin Brott":

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Since your wife will have so much on her mind, Brott highlights that one easy way for dad to help when getting ready to leave the hospital is to be the one to remember to ask hospital staff for a complimentary baby gift bag such as the new 2007 NESTLE GOOD START Limited Edition Backpack. It is filled with valuable information about infant care and nutrition, special gifts including a changing pad, plush baby blanket, instructional DVD to help parents through baby's first days, and is handy for organizing and safekeeping everyday baby essentials. In addition, the GOOD START Backpack contains a 12 oz sample of Nestle's newest infant formula, GOOD START NATURAL CULTURES(TM) which has beneficial cultures to support a healthy immune system. Parents will appreciate that the high quality black canvas backpack can be worn by mom or dad without embarrassment.
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This is a very clear violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which Nestlé is expected to abide by independently of government measures under Article 11.3.

Specifically there should be no free samples or gifts to parents and no direct or indirect contact. A few token words from Nestlé on its website about supporting breastfeeding, does not excuse such aggressive marketing practices.

Remember in the United States there used to be a voluntary advertising ban for formula, but that collapsed when Nestlé entered the market. See:

Nestlé has launched a media campaign around its targeting of fathers. See:
New Checklist of 'Daddy Duties' Supports Dads-to-Be and Delights Moms

Nestlé is committed to acheiving significant year-on-year growth for its infant nutrition business, leading to wholesale systematic breaches of the marketing requirements in the US and in other countries. See my report from this year's shareholder meeting at:

It is not just in the US where Nestlé targets parents with infant formula promotion - and tries to justify it. We have recently see Nestlé's Head of Corporate Social Responsibility in the UK, Hilary Parsons, defend distributing fliers for mothers for Lactogen infant formula in Bangladesh. See:

We are asking people to write to Nestlé's Chief Executive Officer, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, about this flagrant violation in Bangladesh. See:

While putting time and resources into new promotions in every country where it markets formula, Nestlé's action on the marketing requirements is sadly lacking, despite Mr. Brabeck claim that he personally investigates any hint of a violation.

This is perhaps best summed up by the 'Code Action Reports' on the website Nestlé promotes to divert criticism of its baby food marketing. The most recent report is from June 2003 (click here). These were launched in 1999 as a monthly update on Nestlé's 'Code Action' but very soon became an embarassment for Nestlé and faltered and have now, apparently, stopped after 7 irregular editions. See:

It is clear where Nestlé's priorities lie.

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