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Nestlé have announced their next materiality goal in nutrition, building upon previous targets of reducing sugar in their children’s cereals and their unhealthiest products. The food giant has given itself the target of reducing the sugar content in its products as of 2015 by 10% at the end of 2018.
Nestlé’s ‘Good Food, Good Life’ marketing strategy often targets children and their parents, trying to position many of its brands as a healthy option whilst still appealing to children. Their ‘just look for the green banner’ promotion markets cereals like Cookie Crisp, Golden Nuggets and Cinnamon Grahams towards parents by focusing on their whole grain content. It follows then, that in the midst of warnings of a child obesity crisis, Nestlé would spring into action.
Some have linked the new targets being set by various food companies as a response to the much discussed ‘sugar tax’ coming into force in April 2018. Although the initial tax will only target soft drinks, the Government’s ‘Childhood Obesity: A Plan for Action’ published last year did suggest a sugar reduction target (20% by 2020) for various offending food products.
Others might say that it is the NGOs and consumers that are the real influencers of food business behaviour.
In December 2015 the Advertising Standards Authority prevented Nestlé’s Nesquik from using the slogan “great start to the day” following a complaint by the Children’s Food Campaign. A significant blow to a lucrative product’s image. Nestlé are well aware of the impact of a lack of social responsibility, in their own words “To be successful, a company cannot afford to ignore what the world thinks about it”.
Whatever the reasoning is, Nestlé have seemed keen to show that they are ahead of the game.
Perhaps the most formidable incoming legal threat to Nestlé’s marketing model is the new advertising ban on unhealthy foods on media which has an audience of 25% children or more. The ban comes into effect on 1st July 2017 and undercuts any marketing strategy which tries to sell treat food directly to children while convincing their parents that it is healthy. However, products which make the cut as healthy enough will receive a boost in public confidence.
If it isn’t already essential for business survival to genuinely invest in responsible marketing and production, then it will be soon. We fell for it when fat was the enemy and businesses replaced it with sugar or worse while promoting their ‘fat free’ diet products. With the current investment in food education in schools and NGOs like Action on Sugar targeting businesses individually, it won’t be as easy this time around.