Tag Archives: nestle

Nestle’s Attempts to Woo “Mommy Bloggers” Results in PR Disaster as Company Refuses to Answer Questions

It seems that Nestle’s infant formula division employs tactics eerily similar to those used by their water bottling folks when confronted by inconvenient facts – including those that directly contradict the company’s own spin.

In the bottled water world, Nestle representatives have categorically stated they have never harmed a watershed or aquifer, yet a judge in Michigan clearly disagreed, and the company – faced with yet another losing effort in court – clearly agreed when they capitulated to a lower pumping limit in Mecosta County.

In other words, their representative lied, and it’s a pattern that plays out over and over.

In this case, it reared its head on a diastrous PR program aimed at promoting their products to “mommybloggers” who were wined and dined at a lavish seminar.

The Boycott Nestle Web site (focused on Nestle’s infant formula record [which is abominable]) recounted the whole sordid story:

But critics of the company countered that the event was a public
relations ploy in reaction to an ongoing boycott of Nestle for
marketing baby milk formula as a substitute for breast feeding in
developing countries.
In fact, before the trip, critics reached out to the bloggers invited to California and urged them to not go.
No one canceled.
As
the event got underway, the online conversation quickly turned into an
online battlefield. The company’s Twitter channel was so inundated with
anti-Nestle messages, and nasty accusations aimed at the attendees,
that it was essentially shut down. The company, caught off guard, let
the parents field questions aimed at executives until finally stepping
into the fray.
—Extract ends
I saw
several bloggers say they had been invited to the event and refused to
go. Not the same as canceling, but bloggers on the invitation list were
not all blind to the conflicts of interest in attending, even if
unaware of the boycott.
Nestlé is one of the
four most boycotted companies on the planet, according to an
independent survey, because it is found to be responsible for more
violations of the marketing standards for baby foods than any other
company.
The LA Times article is a little lazy
in characterising the posts to the #nestlefamily hashtag as
‘anti-Nestlé messages’ and ‘accusations aimed at the attendees’. The
vast majority of posts were raising concerns about Nestlé practices and
posting links to evidence (I became aware of the event through traffic
to our sites) and responding to specific requests from some attendees
for questions to put to executives, including the Chief Executive of
Nestlé USA.
Nestlé came online briefly and
offered to take questions. I offered to take part in a tweet debate
directly with Nestlé on behalf of Baby Milk Action, but this was not
taken up. Nestlé stayed on line for an hour or so, promising to come
back the next day to respond to questions, but did not.

The fact is Nestlé runs from fora where there are people with the knowledge to challenge its bland assurances that it markets formula ‘ethically and responsibly’ (a claim that the UK Advertising Standards Authority found to be untrue when Nestlé made it in an anti-boycott advertisement). It not only ran from the questions on Twitter, it now refuses to debate with Baby Milk Action, after we won a series of them from 2001 – 2004. Nestlé refused to attend a European Parliament Public Hearing in 2000, when UNICEF Legal Officer was present to address questions regarding interpretation of the marketing requirements Nestlé should be following (Nestlé claims its own interpretation is correct, while dismissing all others, including UNICEF). And Nestlé refuses to even set out its terms and conditions for participating in an independent expert tribunal into its policies and practices.

Nestlé prefers to direct people to its own website and provide written answers, but not defend them when these are scrutinised, perhaps hoping the majority will accept its assurances at face value. Those who do look closer generally come away more shocked and dismayed at Nestlé’s deceit as it tries to defend practices that contribute to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants.

Nestlé’s reticence to engage with informed critics can be understood given how its response to questions put by the PhD in Parenting blog has fueled concerns rather than dissuaded those looking at this issue. Nestlé’s answers have been posted in full on the blog, and can be found via:
http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/10/03/follow-up-questions-for-nestle/

As is often the case, Nestlé’s attempt to divert criticism became a PR disaster and gave International Nestlé-Free Week a boost in the US in its third year. The week aims to encourage boycotters to do more and non-boycotters to do something to increase the pressure on Nestlé. Boycotting has forced some changes and greater involvement can only help. See: http://boycottnestle.blogspot.com/2009/10/boycott-successes.html

Nestle, as it has been noted, promised to address questions, but clearly never did – at least when those questions became uncomfortable.

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Did Poland Spring’s Heavy-Handed Media Campaign Doom it in Wells?

This opinion piece from Maine’s Seacoast Online suggests Nestle/Poland Spring’s well-oiled PR machine may have worked against the company, with voters becoming increasingly disenchanted with what appeared to be a heavy-handed campaign:

While many of us were holding onto our spare change and waiting for signs of economic recovery, Poland Spring launched an all-out, full-color, full-volume attack on the small community of Wells and the surrounding towns. From the ads to the mailers to the calls placed by telemarketers, there was little respite even for those who tend to ignore local issues.

So, on Tuesday, the voters rose and carried themselves to the Wells High School, and there they delivered what many hope will be a crushing blow to the hopes of multinational giant Nestlé.

Those of us steeped in the tradition of newsroom skepticism aren’t so sure Nestlé or Poland Spring will be deterred so easily, which is why we just last week argued in favor of the Wells water extraction ordinance — it seems to us that even basic protections are better than none.

But whatever comes next, maybe Poland Spring will learn a few lessons, as Bloomberg has, about the danger of voter fatigue and the power of grass-roots organizing.

While the Nestlé folks were rolling out their glossy campaign, local organizers from across the region spent countless hours wearing through shoe leather, knocking on doors and reaching out to voters.

It worked, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that the effort will pay off in the long run.

Nestle desperately didn’t want this vote to go against them, and their big-dollar efforts reflected that desire. Still, in the face of strong grassroots organizing – the kind they faced in McCloud and Mecosta County – their glossy campaigns simply weren’t enough.

The Nestle Water Talk Digest

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Press Release: Citizens Reject Wells Water Extraction Ordinance (“No” to Nestle)

Press Release
November 3,2009

Contact: Jamilla El-Shafei,organizer for Save Our Water and The Branch Brook Aquifer Coalition (email: jamillaelshafei@gmail.com)
Contact: Jean Foss, spokesperson for Protect Wells Water and member of The Branch Brook Aquifer Coalition (email: jeanfoss@earthlink.net)

Wells voters rejected a water extraction ordinance 3,194 no to 1,420 yes.

Jamilla El-Shafei, organizer for Save Our Water, a water justice organization which includes residents from Wells, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport,Ogunquit and Biddeford, who organized the opposition along with Protect Wells Water said “In spite of the Nestle Waters Corporation spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence the vote in Wells, the citizens are standing up to protect their water from corporate exploitation and sending a message: No to large scale water extraction and No to Nestle!

We are hoping that the State of Maine takes notice and that our legislators put water in the public trust.”

“Presently, surface water and ground water are regulated under two different bodies of law, yet they are part of the same hydrological cycle. We need to have one law which protects our water, the state’s most precious resource and place it in the public trust.”

Jean Foss, spokesperson for Protect Wells Water said “Rejection of the Wells ordinance, question #1, makes clear that the people of Wells do not want large scale water extraction. By this decision Wells groundwater remains fully available to the homes and local businesses that depend on it. Wells voters can credit themselves for turning out in numbers to vote on a critical and confusing issue.

Future assaults on our aquifers are likely as water becomes scarce. Citizens are concerned and increasingly well informed. They rightfully demand that our laws, both state and local adequately defend people’s access to clean and abundant water.”