Nestlé, Nutrition and Nonsense

Nestlé, Nutrition and Nonsense

At about the same time that David Bottomley was making headlines over a practices refusal to see him due to his weight, the giant global food and drink conglomerate Nestlé, also managed to get a dental story that is not about the NHS, into the papers and social media.

Kit Kat cereal is the latest delight to be launched by the world’s largest publicly held food company.  They describe it as “a delicious new breakfast option which brings the taste of the popular chocolate bar straight to consumers’ cereal bowls.” This addition to the Nestlé Cereals’ portfolio is made with a milk chocolate flavoured coating and “is a source of five vitamins, calcium and iron”. It also contains 24.7 grams of sugar per 100grams of product. While the information Nestle use on the packaging refers to a 30 gram serving, many consumers will be putting rather more than this modest amount into their bowl. The response to the product has provided another new dental story for the press, and featured in both The Times and The Sun.

The Times published a letter signed by members of ten organisations with an interest in health, including Eddie Crouch in his capacity as BDA Chair. Headed “Sugar content of Nestlé new cereal” the letter criticised the company for describing the product as nutritious. It said that it made public claims to be committed to healthier food, “yet in private it continues to research and develop new ways to sell us sugar.” It also referred to “misleading nutritional claims.” The letter concluded by demanding that the government take action and implement its obesity strategy. There was an accompanying article in The Times which included the line, “Nestlé promotes “nutritious” product that is a quarter sugar.”

Nestlé UK responded saying that the criticism was “wildly unfair” and that the nutritious claim was only made on their global website. This speaks for itself, and is in character for a company with a history of particularly questionable marketing in developing parts of the world. With a rather different emphasis, Sarah Fordy, Head of Marketing at Cereal Partners UK & Ireland, said it had “been developed to cater to consumers who are looking for an occasional, indulgent breakfast option, that can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.” The BDA hit back on Twitter, saying “outrageous spin is nothing new from Big Food, and Nestlé UK are experts.”  They pointed out that despite the Nestlé claim that the number one ingredient in a Milky Bar was milk, that the largest constituent is in fact sugar.

The Sun ran it’s story with the headline “Don’t snap it up” and summarised the key points that had been made in The Times letter. The same ten signatories have also written to Nestle UK Chief Executive, Richard Watson, explaining why the product was so concerning. In one part they quoted Nestlé slogans about selling healthier food and then asked: “How can promoting a cereal, a 30g serving of which provides almost 30% of the recommended sugar intake for a seven year old (and 40% for a 6 year old) fit with that statement?”

Later in the letter, they said, “Nestlé removed its spurious nutritional claim from parts of its website following a consumer backlash but our food system should not be governed that way. If it were really following its mission statement, Nestlé would never have developed that product in the first place. There is no way that it could be seen as “enhanc(ing) quality of life for everyone, today and for generations to come.”

The issue was first raised online by Henry Dimbleby a former government adviser, but GDPUK feels bound to use different language to describe Nestlé’s ethics. 


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