Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshot

Nestle's Anti-Organic Stance is Disappointing, but Expected

Nestle has a very pro-GMO policy and has invested in GM-coffee research, so its vocal anti-organic stance is to be expected. In 2008, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of the Board of Nestlé S.A. even asked policymakers in Europe to re-evaluate their opposition to GMO.

According to him "You have to be rational. There's no way you can support life on earth if you go straight from farm to table."

Nestle currently owns San Pellegrino water, PowerBar energy bars, and Skinny Cow ice cream which generally appeal to buyers concerned with health and the environment, although technically none of these brands are organic. When it comes down to it, Nestle's sales of 110 billion swiss francs and profits of 34 billion in 2010 has nothing to do with organics.

Nestle also claims that organic food is lower in nutrition. Several food companies like Nestle, Kraft Foods and Dole Foods actively propagate this notion because it supports their business model. However other companies like Clif Bar & Co, Amy's Kitchen, Eden Foods etc are able to have a scalable business model in spite of basing them on organic produce.

In 2003, a study conducted by UC Davis proved that organic food is indeed better for you. Varieties of corn, berries were grown in neighboring plots using different methods. They were then compared for vitamins and polyphenols. The researchers found that sustainably cultivated crops had higher levels of these nutrients.

Why are polyphenols important? These are secondary metabolites manufactured by plants, in other words, they are antioxidants. Organic foods contain more polyphenols because these compounds are released by plant to ward off pests, diseases and insects - when ingested by humans, they have the same benefits for us.

Nestle isn't giving up on the connection between health and food, not in the slightest. The company developing a line of nutraceuticals - a range of food products designed to treat ailments like diabetes and obesity. Brabeck-Letmathe said that Nestle is "investing more money in life sciences and the intersection of medicine and nutrition because its executives believe that how we eat plays a large role in chronic diseases." Its ironic that a candy company wants to play a larger role in prevention of diabetes!

He also claims that organic food sales have plateaued. However figures according to Organic Monitor proves the contrary. Organic foods sales reached $54.9 billion in 2009, the latest figures available. The countries with the largest markets are the U.S., Germany, and France. The Organic Trade Association reports U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have reached $26.7 billion in 2010. Sales in 2010 represented 7.7% growth over 2009 sales.

It is highly disappointing to read about food companies promoting chemical/biotech-based agriculture but it is even more disappointing when they actively put down organic methods. They are actively alienating a large group of potential customers. Although if you are a die-hard organic fan, I doubt you'll be going anywhere near Nestle.

Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshotAkhila Vijayaraghavan

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net

Read more stories by Akhila Vijayaraghavan

More stories from Energy & Environment