Nestle purchase of Pfizer's SMA and other baby milk brands bad news for babies

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Press release 23 April 2012

Nestlé has won a fierce battle with Danone to acquire the Pfizer Nutrition business, including brands such as S-26, SMA and Promil brands of breastmilk substitutes. Nestlé is the one of the four most boycotted companies on the planet and the most boycotted in the UK - where it now enters the mass formula market - according to a past survey by GMI Poll. On 19 April Nestlé Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, rejected a call at the company's shareholder meeting by Baby Milk Action to bring baby food marketing practices into line with World Health Assembly minimum standards, stating it was not for Baby Milk Action to tell him what to do.

Concerns raised by Baby Milk Action include Nestlé's targeting of health workers and parents. The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes prohibits companies from seeking direct or indirect contact with pregnant women and parents of infants and young children. In its press release announcing the Pfizer purchase, Nestlé CEO, Paul Bulcke, states: "The combined entities will enable us to deepen our engagement with consumers, offering them a wider choice of nutritious food to ensure their children make a healthy start to a healthy life."

Nestlé says of Pfizer Nutrition, "85% of its sales are in emerging markets". In poor conditions, breastfeeding saves lives. According to UNICEF"Improved breastfeeding practices and reduction of artificial feeding could save an estimated 1.5 million children a year."

Baby Milk Action's Campaigns and Networking Coordinator, Mike Brady, said:

"Last week Mr. Brabeck rejected our call at the Nestlé shareholder meeting for Nestlé to bring its baby food marketing policies and practices into line with World Health Assembly minimum standards. Nestlé's announcement today reveals one of the ways the company undermines breastfeeding by suggesting mothers need Nestlé products to 'ensure their children make a healthy start to a healthy life'. Children fed on formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed children and, in conditions of poverty more likely to die, which is why breastfeeding is the true healthy start. Nestlé aims to be the largest player in any market it enters, driving down standards, which means things are about to get a whole lot worse in some countries where Pfizer's brands trail the competition."

See Baby Milk Action's press release: 
Nestlé Chairman rejects proposals from boycott coordinators at company AGM at:

The purchase brings Nestlé into the UK market where it only has specialist products. The market leaders in the UK are Danone (Cow & Gate, Aptamil brands) and Pfizer (SMA brand). Current marketing violations by these companies are exposed on the Baby Feeding Law Group website at: 


Mike Brady on 07986 736179 or Patti Rundall (Policy Director) on 07786523493

Notes for editors

  1. Nestlé is singled out for boycott action as it is the worst of the baby food companies in terms of the type and number of violations. Danone has become increasingly aggressive, particularly in asia, at it tries to compete following its takeover of the NUMICO brands in 2007. Baby Milk Action and its partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) expose violations by all companies and are in communication with executives encouraging them to bring policies and practices into line with World Health Assembly minimum standards.
  2. Nestlé responded to the last global monitoring report from IBFAN, Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2010, by saying it would act on just four of the 130 violations it counted in its profile, or just 3%. Danone claimed to have already taken action accounting for 50% of the violations in its profile and subsequently agreed to remove its Immunofortis health claim, exposed in the report, from labels around the world.
  3. According to industry analysts Euromonitor, Nestlé controls about 29% of the global baby milk market and Danone 15%.