Nestlé’sFlawed Baby Formula
Nestléis an international food and drinks company. It faces variouschallenges arising from some of its products. The company states thatit is a leader in nutrition, wellness, and health thereby helpingfamilies to take care of themselves and their children (Nestlé,2016). As listed on its website, some of the company’s productsinclude cereals, bottled water, dairy products, coffee and babyfoods (Nestlé, 2016). In the 70s, Nestlé came up with a baby foodline of products (Nestlé, 2016). In an advertisement in GoodHousekeeping Magazine, Nestlé’s baby formula was described to beas good as a mother’s breast milk and the baby’s tiny stomachwould not notice the difference. The advertisement also added that achild should not be introduced immediately to cow milk since thismilk contained a lot of germs and indigestible cud. According to theadvertisement, Nestlé formula had been purified and made digestiblefor babies. Since came as a powder, all one had to do was purchasethe powder, dilute with water and boil for two minutes to make itready for a baby (Andrei, 2015).
Nestléaggressively advertised the product and its promotion widely focusedthe third world countries. Nestlé was introducing mothers to analternative that was more expensive and less healthy as compared tobreast milk (Krasny, 2012). The baby formula had some problems.Firstly, it was in powder form and required dilution. Water indeveloping countries is mostly polluted and could cause dangerousillness to infants. The mothers in these developing countries did notknow of proper sanitation methods due to the low literacy levels andtheir inability to read the language of the sterilization directions.Secondly, some mothers knew of the sanitization requirements butlacked the facilities to carry out the measures. Also, since themothers were poor and they needed to feed their babies, some of themover diluted the formula so that they could use it for longer. Overdilution led to malnutrition among the children since it lowered thenutrient levels in the mixture. Finally, many organizations arguedthat the advertisements were misleading because breast milk containsmany nutrients and antibodies absent in baby formulas. Mothers couldnot achieve the expected results by substituting breast milk with theformula that was said to be as good as mother’s milk.
Theunethical practice of Nestlé soon became public knowledge (Sethi,2012). A booklet called “The baby killer” published by War onWant Organization in London aggravated the war on Nestlé’s babyformula (Sethi, 2012). The baby killer claimed that children in thirdworld countries were dying due to irresponsible marketing that wascarried out by multinationals on infant formulas (Sethi, 2012).Nestlé sued a German translator for libel after he translated “Thebaby killer” into “Nestlé kills babies” (Sethi, 2012). After acourt case on the issue, a judge ruled for Nestlé, stating that thecompany was not responsible for the death of infants (Krasny, 2012).However, the judge added a caveat requiring the modification ofNestlé’s publicity methods (Krasny, 2012).
Thesehappenings led to the launch of campaigns for the boycott of Nestlé’sproducts in various parts of the USA which also spread to otherregions of the world. There was a growing concern by the public aboutNestlé, and as a result of the negative publicity, there was aglobal boycott of Nestlé’s products. The company did not come outto actively defend their practices, to take social responsibility orto clear their name with regards to the allegations. Finally, in1979, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World HealthOrganization (WHO) held a meeting with health bodies, the government,NGO’s and the baby food companies. It came up with standards andpractices to guide breast milk substitution. After five years, Nestléagreed to accept and comply with the set standards (Central FinanceBoard of the Methodist Church, 2014). However, due to their failureto adequately address the issue when it arose, the boycott ofNestlé’s products continues to some level today.
Communicationand Action Plans
Tosolve the problem in today’s world. The company would need to takevarious measures. The company has to plan on how to go aboutcombating the negative publicity about its products, specifically,baby formula. The aim of the campaign, the strategies to be used, thetarget group, the content of the messages, the tasks and timing ofthe action plan and the budget of the action plan should be clearlylaid out. After advertising the product in the newspaper, the companyshould undertake aggressive advertising in the social mediaplatforms. In Twitter and Facebook, for instance, the company shouldadvertise the product and focus on teaching individuals theimportance of using sanitized water to dilute the mixture.
Thecompany should also create an online platform like a chat room wherethey interact with customers and answer their questions and concernsabout the baby formula. Also, the process of dilution and the amountof water to be used should be clear. Communication about the productshould be translated in various languages to make it suitable for thedifferent customers. The company should get to know the local Africanlanguages and prepare instructions in these languages. The formulashould circulate in various regions with accompanying instructions inlocal languages. Where the company finds it necessary to provide freesamples of baby formula to hospitals or individuals, the company mayalso take responsibility and supply accompanying clean water.
Insteadof suing people for negative reviews of their product, the companyshould hold a press conference to release a statement where theyexplain their product to citizens, defend it from the leveledaccusations and where necessary, accept blame. In this case, thecompany should take responsibility for false advertising and advisemothers that the benefits of breast milk still outweigh those offormula milk.
Thedifference between the two approaches is mainly a difference ofstrategy. Instead of merely advertising the powder formula, the newplan also focuses on teaching individuals the importance of usingsanitized water to dilute the product and in what proportion theformula requires dilution. Since some mothers were unable tounderstand the language of instruction, the use of instructionlanguages that are unique to regions will make it easier for parentsto understand how to use the product. Also, advocating forbreastfeeding will enable the parents to prioritize breast milk andnot to equate it with formula. The company will not be blamed fordeath, sickness, and malnutrition of children since mothers willcontinue to breastfeed their babies and in instances where they offerformula, they will dilute it appropriately with sanitized water.
Theopenness in communication, concern for the poor people, quickresponse to arising questions, clarity in explanation of products andoffering samples with water will change people’s attitude towardsthe product. If such measures are in place, then the calls for aboycott will end, and individuals will be more receptive to Nestlé’sproducts.
Andrei, M. (2015). Why Nestlé is one of the most hated companies in the world. Retrieved from ZME SCIENCE: http://www.zmescience.com/science/nestle-company-pollution-children/
Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church. (2014). Briefing Paper on the Ethical Issues. Methodist Church. Retrieved from http://www.methodist.org.uk /downloads/ ei_ response_to_CFB_briefing_Baby_Milk_Action.pdf
Krasny, J. (2012). Nestlé infant formula scandal. Retrieved from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/nestles-infant-formula-scandal-2012-6?op=1/#e-baby-killer-blew-the-lid-off-the-formula-industry-in-1974-1
Nestlé. (2016). About us. Retrieved from Nestlé: http://www.nestle.com/aboutus
Nestlé. (2016). Brands. Retrieved from Nestlé: http://www.nestle.com/brands
Sethi, S. P. (2012). Multinational Corporations and the Impact of Public Advocacy on Corporate Strategy: Nestlé and the Infant Formula Strategy. Journal of International Business Studies, 658. Retrieved from https:// www.jstor.org/ stable/155364?seq= 1#page_scan_ tab_contents