Nestlé improves nutritional content, enforces stricter child advertising guidelines

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 19th November 2008

Swiss-based Nestlé, the world’s largest food manufacturer, is to cut the sugar content of some of their most popular childrens’ foods. The announcement will officially be made later today with the release of their “Global Marketing to Children Principles” in Switzerland.

Among the products to be reformulated is the renowned Milo brand, with the company reporting they will stamp out advertising to children of products which do not meet a set nutritional profile.

Nutrition label

All products will be analysed and, if they cannot meet the new set of nutritional guidelines, they will not be promoted to children. “Some products simply don’t taste good enough, and the consumer tells us they don’t taste good enough and will not buy them unless they have particular, particularly levels of salt or fat or sugar in them in order to make them taste good,” Ian Alwill, Nestlé Australia’s Marketing Manager, told ABC local radio this morning. “What we, our food technology will drive us towards is finding ways of reducing those things over time, but still retain taste. Without taste the consumer is just simply not interested in buying anything.”

The Australian reported products that will no longer be advertised to children will include: Country Cup Noodlers Alphabet Chicken Soup, Uncle Toby’s Fruit Roll Ups, Nestlé Stars In-cred-i Bites and Wonka Bertie Beetle.

Food manufacturers have been under greater pressure from health and consumer groups to update their product ranges and alter their marketing to children this year, as concern about childhood obesity gathers pace. There have been calls for a ban on food advertising to children, though the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) released a draft report in August recommending no general restrictions on food and beverage advertising.

ACMA is, however, proposing to strengthen certain provisions regulating advertising to children. These proposals would further restrict the use of licensed characters, popular personalities and celebrities to promote and endorse products immediately before, during and after ‘C’ and ‘P’ periods. They would also clarify rules for premium offers, such as toys offered with food and beverage purchases.

Since the release of the ACMA report, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) – which represents food manufacturers, has outlined a framework for greater responsibility in advertising to kids. The initiative is set to cover advertising on free to air television, pay television, the internet, the use of licensed characters, and publications aimed at children.

“This initiative requires companies to abide by a set of core principles that govern how they advertise during designated children’s programming, or where the audience is predominantly made up of primary school aged children,” AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said. “The aim of the initiative is to ensure that only healthy foods and beverages are advertised during television shows predominantly watched by primary school aged children.”

The Australian reported that Nestlé’s global initiative was led by their Australian division, though Nestlé has been seeking to position themselves as a world leader in health and wellness over recent years with the assistance of recent acquisitions such as Jenny Craig.

“Nestlé is committed to becoming the recognized global leader in nutrition, health and wellness and the reference for sustainable financial performance in its industry,” they noted upon releasing their latest financial data last month. “The alignment of the Group’s businesses behind this commitment will drive profitable growth both in the current environment and in the longer term.”

The initiative, which will be implemented in all regions by the end of this year, will ensure no promotional activity will be directed to children under the age of six, with advertising to children between the ages of six and 12 restricted to products which will assist children to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. They also intend not to use any programme personalities, live or animated, other than their own copyright characters to market products so that their communications are clearly distinguished from such content and have prior agreement and consent by school administration and event organisers, should activities in schools be considered.

“It’s fairly clear that in order to have a positive outcome with our products in the community, that improved nutritional standards need to be achieved,” Mr Alwill said.