Thursday, 30 June 2011

I spent most of my youth refusing to eat Kit Kats in protest against Nestle's promotion of baby milk forumula in developing countries.

Over the years Nestle has improved its performance in meeting international codes of practice. The Methodist Church has for many years raised its concerns and been involved in monitoring Nestle's practices. Many individuals, including me, have subsequently dropped their boycotts of Nestle.

However I now begin to wonder whether Nestle has a death wish. News from Industry Leaders Magazine reveals that Nestle is to launch "BabyNes", a luxury baby formula which uses the same technology as the Nestle espresso machines. Each single serving capsule produces a bottle of baby milk at just the touch of a button.

Now I'm a mother of three children, so I can understand that anything that makes life easier for hard-pressed, sleep-deprived mums should at least be looked at sympathetically. So why do I find the new Baby Nes so disturbing?

Firstly look at the picture. The Baby Nes is clearly a lifestyle choice, rather than a choice of what is best for the baby, be that formula or breast milk. And by promoting the image of mothers who use it as elegant and in control it undermines the message that mothers can breastfeed and still be normal, functioning women (admittedly elegance is always harder to achieve with a small child around!)

Secondly it is an expensive aspirational lifestyle choice. The formula capsules will reportedly cost about £1.50 each, which could easily add up to a phenomenal £70 a week. Both of these factors seem to go against the spirit of the World Health Organisation Code on Baby Milk.

Finally the same Code states that formula distributors should not have direct contact with mothers. Nestle's marketing strategy for the BabyNes machine (which includes the website offering free demonstrations of the machine) would appear to be in contravention of the Code.

For the avoidance of doubt, I don't dispute the fact that formula is the right choice for some babies and mothers. And I recognise that Nestle states its support for exclusive breastfeeding where possible for the first six months. But I feel a deep unease about the marketing of this product. Next year Nestle are planning to launch it outside Switzerland...