Nestlé admits failures in Africa after Oxfam report

Nestlé admits it can do more to improve its suppliers' livelihoods, after an Oxfam report accused the Swiss food giant of failing to address the plight of farmers in the world's poorest countries.

Nestlé admits failures in Africa after Oxfam report
Photo: AFP

"Where we can make a difference is in the area of rural development, in the area of nutrition, and also in the area of water conservation — that is the biggest issue of scarce resources," Nestlé's vice president for Africa, Asia and Oceania, Nandu Nandkishore, told AFP in an interview.
"Can we do more in these areas? Absolutely."

In a report published last month, Oxfam said the world's largest food and
drinks companies were not doing "nearly enough to address inequality, hunger and a lack of opportunity," particularly for women working within their supply chains.
It said Mars, Mondelez International and Nestlé, which control more than 40
percent of the global chocolate market, buy nearly one third of the world's harvested cocoa, while poverty and hunger among cocoa growers remains "endemic" notably in West Africa.
"We will support the efforts of Oxfam and other NGOs to make progress
towards sustainable food systems," Nandkishore said during a visit to Morocco, adding that the Oxfam report gave Nestle the best rating of the firms assessed.
"We have worldwide more than 600,000 farmers who provide our raw materials,
and we are working to improve their livelihoods."
In Morocco alone, the company works with 16,000 farmers, who supply its
factory in El Jadida with around 80 million litres of milk annually, compared with 6.6 million litres that it collected 20 years ago.
"Despite the Lehman (Brothers) crisis, despite the north Atlantic, eurozone
crisis, Africa continues to grow," Nandkishore said.
"We have recognised this. Africa is an area where we are looking for good
growth rates," he said, adding that Nestle has invested 1.3 billion  francs ($1.36 billion) there over the past five years.
Nestlé's sales in Africa grew by 13.5 percent in 2012 to 3.33 billion
francs, the company said in its annual report, making the continent its second most important in terms of growth after Asia.
"Even with the 'speed bumps', in the course of this decade we expect a
billion consumers to emerge out of poverty and into the middle class," the report said.

"And the emerging consumers will look for packaged goods, for conveniences, for modern lifestyles."
But for all the optimism about its potential as a key emerging market,
Africa clearly still has a long way to go, accounting last year for less than Nestlé's sales in France, its largest European customer.

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‘Unlimited resources’: Switzerland’s Nestle goes vegan

Swiss food giant Nestle, which has made billions with dairy products, said Monday it will host start-ups that want to develop vegetarian alternatives.

'Unlimited resources': Switzerland's Nestle goes vegan

Nestle could thus find itself at the forefront of a sector that has strong growth potential, an analyst commented.

It plans to open its research and development (R&D) centre in Konolfingen, Switzerland to “start-ups, students and scientists” a statement said.

In addition to testing sustainable dairy products, the group plans to encourage work on plant-based dairy alternatives, it added.

Chief executive Mark Schneider was quoted as saying that “innovation in milk products and plant-based dairy alternatives is core to Nestle's portfolio strategy.”

The group unveiled a vegetable-based milk that had already been developed with the process, and technical director Stefan Palzer told AFP it planned to focus on 100-200 such projects a year.

Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux, noted that while Nestle had missed some consumer trends in the past, it has now “taken something of a lead in the plant-based alternative market for food”.

And “given its pretty much unlimited resources, Nestle is going to come out one of the winners in the space,” Cox forecast in an e-mail.

Nestle said that “internal, external and mixed teams” would work at the R&D centre over six-month periods.

Nestle would provide “expertise and key equipment such as small to medium-scale production equipment to facilitate the rapid upscaling of products for a test launch in a retail environment,” it added.

The Swiss food giant has long been known for its dairy products, but faced a boycott in the 1970s for allegedly discouraging mothers in developing countries from breastfeeding even though it was cheaper and more nutritious than powdered formula.

On Monday, the group's statement also underscored that the research initiative was part of its commitment to help fight global warming.

“As a company, we have set ambitious climate goals. This is part of our promise to develop products that are good for you and good for the planet,” it said.