Friday, 27 November 2009

Nestlé's new way of harming African babies

This globetrotter parent has noticed that if there is one thing that pervades the world, it's the Nestlé brand.  And if there is one thing that Nestlé like to sell, it's infant formula.

Nestlé and other infant formula manufacturers have, or so they say, committed themselves not to market their infant formula for babies under the age of six months.  Now, in my opinion, if they really wanted to adhere to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, they wouldn't market their infant formula at all (including the formula for babies 6 months and up) and it would be available exclusively in pharmacies and not in grocery stores.  But I digress. 

Knowing full well that they are unable to advertise their infant formula for younger babies, Nestlé advertise other products instead.  Here in Tananarive, they advertise their powdered whole milk, called Nido.  Note that "Nido" means "nest" in Italian and is very close to the French word for nest as well ("nid"). So not surprisingly, the Malagasy people (most of whom speak French) tend to think of Nido as milk that is meant for babies

But it's not.  Nestle Nido is just plain old whole milk in powder form with some vitamins added to it.  It has not been adapted for babies.

Yet the other day, I asked our driver, as we passed by a huge wall ad for Nido, "Is Nido milk for babies?"

"Yes", he replied.  "You give it to babies if you can't breastfeed."

Then I asked our cook, "Do the Malagasy give Nestlé Nido to their babies when breastmilk is not available?"

"yes, yes", she replied.
I explained to her that Nestlé Nido was, in fact, whole milk, and not infant formula.  She was very surprised and kept asking, "Are you sure?".

Then I said to our nanny, "Would you give Nestlé Nido to a baby?"  She gave me an unequivocal yes and was also surprised when I told her that Nido was not infant formula.

Nestlé don't appear to be doing much to correct this mistaken belief about their product.  They of course do not expressly state anywhere in their advertising that Nido is for babies and to their credit, their advertising portrays a glass of milk on it, not a baby bottle.  BUT (1) a can of Nestlé Nido looks just like a can of infant formula for babies (same 400 gram metal can with plastic top), (2) the name "NIDO" is suggestive of babies and (3) they don't say anywhere on the packaging or in their advertising that it is NOT for babies, except in the FAQ of Nestlé Nido's internet site

Worse, in the shops here in Tana, Nestlé Nido is placed on the shelf right alongside infant formulas.**

And as the Nido whole milk powder also happens to be cheaper than real infant formula (in the shop where this photo was taken, the Nido cost 14000 Ariary whereas the Nestle Guigoz 2ème age cost 18,000 Ariary), people have no hesitation in buying Nestlé Nido for their infant.

One final anecdote from my friend Natasha, an American here in Tana who has a nine-month old baby.  One day, Natasha was telling someone that before arriving here in Tana, she had purchased a year's worth of infant formula in Switzerland and had it shipped here.  She didn't want to be stuck purchasing infant formula in Madagascar, as she had no idea where the formula that is sold here might have been manufactured (much of it comes from Kenya or China, I am told). 

The person responded, "Oh well, if you ever run out, you can always buy some Nido."  Dooooooh!

** Funnily enough, in the large grocery stores in Tana such as Jumbo and Leader Price, where Europeans tend to do their grocery shopping, Nestlé Nido can be found in a separate aisle from the infant formula, alongside other whole milk powders.


Jennifer said...

This is very interesting.

Why do you think the local shops and shops with more European shoppers have Nido in different places in the store?

Do you think the locals really don't know the difference, and that's why it's with the baby formula?

I never realized what Nido was myself.

The Globetrotter Parent said...

Jennifer, the large stores where Europeans shop are in fact European-owned and run stores. Jumbo and Leader Price are both large French chains and Shoprite is South African. In each case, I imagine that the shelving guidelines are imposed from above and the store managers (who also happen to be foreign) adhere to them.

The local shops are much smaller with limited shelf space and the people who buy there are poorer with less education. My driver informed me that most people don't even realize that you can't give unadapted cow's milk to a baby. That's why it's important that manufacturer's label their product clearly and correctly. Infant formulas are all labelled with the age that they are for (e.g., newborn and up, or 6 months and up). If whole milk is going to be sold alongside it, it should also be properly labelled as appropriate for age 12 months and up.

Tommy Ramirez said...

I was looking at a package of nido today here in the u.s. and it said that it was for children over one year old in Spanish and English . The picture of the child on the package was at least 5 years old also and it wasn't in the baby isle .