Thursday, October 26, 2006

Why I hate Nestlé

Dear Nestlé,

It feels funny writing ‘dear’, since nothing about your company is ‘dear’ except the pricing of your inferior goods. However, to be formal, I will bow to convention and address you as above. I’ve been boycotting your products for many years now – since I was 12, in fact. I won’t lie to you, it has had its harder moments, and I have had slippages. During a Lentan fast to raise money for Concern, I snuck a Drifter from the tuck shop in school, and a couple of months ago I bought a packet of Jelly Tots, forgetting that your nefarious reach has now also tainted Rowntrees.

Despite these slips, I feel that I have conducted myself well in the boycott – explaining my choice to as many people as possible, and finding some very willing to follow suit and join the good fight. What follows is my testimony as to why I continue with the battle, even in the face of continued rise in earnings for your company.

One of the more arrant corporate wrongs perpetrated on the third world poor has been to encourage young mothers to purchase expensive baby formula to feed their newborn babies. Nestlé, being the Swiss corporate giant you are, did this through incredibly unsubtle and irresponsible marketing techniques. Giving the poor hospitals of Africa beautiful multicoloured brochures of young mothers in radiantly clean modern rooms of white, feeding their attractive babies, with their model husbands standing by to embrace mother and child lovingly. Along with this fantastic brochure, these young mothers got a few bags of the baby formula for free. So far, you are performing to standard, Nestlé – for what are you offering that isn’t needed? Well, for one thing, breastfeeding is relegated to a second place option, and the mother now feels that to give her baby the best in life, she must purchase this formula. For another thing, the formula is very expensive – so expensive, in fact, that a mother might starve herself or her other children to buy the baby formula, so that she can live up to this perfect model of motherhood given to her in the promotional brochure.

Areas of Africa most beset by poverty have no clean supply of water, and labour under a general lack of knowledge within the population as to the health risks associated with drinking tainted supplies. The lack of information given to these young mothers causes them to mix the baby formula with this water, choosing this First World food over her own healthier, and more sanitary, breast milk. Even in instances where the water is clean, to make the formula last longer the mother will often water it down rather than force another expense upon her and her family. Whatever pathetic nutritional value the formula had now becomes nonexistent, and puts the child at risk of malnutrition. The situation with dirty water can bring on acute and chronic conditions on babies, which can last the rest of their lives, and in particularly horrific situations, can bring about the death of a newborn.

The World Health Organisation has consistently admonished Nestlé for their advertising practices in Africa. The advertising laws in relation to the selling of baby milk formula clearly attempt to prevent companies from:

1. Advising the use of baby milk products instead of breast milk.
2. Comparing the products to breast milk
3. Advertising alternatives to breast milk without providing sufficient information in that advertisement.

You contravene international marketing laws by printing your packaging instructions in English, and you do not advise young mothers on the necessity of using clean water – does human life not matter to you? Obviously not, since you continue to present your be-pictured brochures showing these uneducated, frightened, young mothers that formula is better than breast milk, and you skirt laws by never blatantly saying it within the pages – just leave them with the suggestion that life is better with Nestlé. You continue with your plan to prey on the poor and uninformed, leaving death and disease in your wake, and I refuse to support you by buying your products.

Other just as valid reasons for my total hatred of your company and everything you stand for are as follows:

Your children's cereals are incredibly expensive, and have a huge amount of added sugar. The sugar content of Honey Nut Cheerios, for example, runs at 35.2% - over a third of the total. They also contain overly generous helpings of salt – using Honey Nut Cheerios as an example again, a recommended serving will give me half a gram of salt, which is quite a large portion of my recommended six grams for the whole day…from a sweet cereal! This wouldn’t bother me so much, except that your advertising consistently shouts that they are healthy and have added vitamins…synthetic vitamins that you add after you have over processed the cereal, removing the natural vitamins. Examples of some of your horrible-sounding ingredients are: Partially Inverted Brown Sugar Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Trisodium Phosphate, Flavouring, Antioxidant, Tocopherols. What you say is healthy is really just, let’s be honest, crap, and you can give away as many school books as you want, and claim to support children’s wellbeing as much as you like, but my children will not be eating your cereals.

Your company treats coffee farmers across the world abominably, despite attempts by right-minded individuals to make the coffee trade a fairer one. Millions of people are out of work by your refusal to trade fairly or to concede any ground at all in your moneyed interests. You bully powerless people, you destroy businesses and you continue to refuse to include Fair Trade coffee in your range – declining to even give your own customers a choice.

Nestlé, you misrepresent the way you do business, and you cause immense suffering to real people around the world. You employ hundreds of marketing and advertising men to spin the truth, but why don’t you just try investing the thousands wasted on these spin-doctors back into the poor and dispossessed people you mistreat and bully?

As a conglomerate corporation, it drives me crazy that your dirty little fingers are in every pie, and seemingly intent on world domination. Coffee, chocolate, cereals, pet food, and soft drinks – you buy brands like penny sweets. I don't want to buy anything you have anything to do with, and I resent the fact that you're making it so difficult for me.

Your promotions are designed to blackmail parents into buying a nutritionally poor, ridiculously sweet cereal for their children's breakfasts. Books for kids, sponsored breakfast weeks – you, yet again, prey on those who know no better.

To summarise all of the above as succinctly as possible, everything you do is underhand and dirty, and I resent every attempt you make to wheedle your way into my supermarket trolley.

I check every packet, every label, for any hint of your name, and if it’s there – no matter how much I love Drifters, and miss Cheerios, and want Maybelline foundation – there is no way I will be purchasing your products. Nor will my children, my children’s children, or, if I have anything to do with it, my extended family, my neighbours, or my friends.

One way or another, it will all come back to you, Nestlé – and I will be in the cheering crowd when your back’s finally against the wall.

Yours sincerely, and with the intention of your eventual demise as a company,

Sarah Griffin.

Some recognisable products that Nestlé own or part own
(taken from
It may surprise you how much they actually control:

Perrier, Vittel, Milo, Nesquik, Nestea, Rowntree ice creams, Ski yogurts, Sveltesse yogurts, Buitoni pasta & canned foods

Rowntrees Jellies, Cheerios & Honey Nut Cheerios, Cinnamon and Golden Grahams Clusters, Shreddies, Fitnesse, Shredded Wheat, Shreddies

Aero, After Eights, Animal Bar, Black Magic, Drifter, Fruit Pastilles, Jellytots, Kit Kat, Lion Bar, Milky Bar, Munchies, Quality Street, Rolo, Rowntrees Fruit Gums, Smarties, Toffee Crisp, Walnut Whip, Willy Wonka, Yorkie

Garnier, Colgate Dental Gum, Lancome, L'Oreal, Maybelline

Felix, Friskies, Winalot

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