KitKat owner Nestlé is resisting pressure to cut back on unhealthy products

Nestlé has resisted proposals from investors that would have forced the world’s largest consumer goods company to cut back on high salt, sugar and fat levels in its foods and drinks.

The Swiss-headquartered multinational received the support of 88% of shareholder votes at its annual meeting on Thursday, while 11% supported the resolution.

Nestlé had urged investors to reject the proposal, arguing that a move away from “indulgent products” could harm “strategic freedom.”

Five institutional investors with $1.68 trillion (£1.35 trillion) in assets under management, including Legal & General Investment Management, said they were concerned about the reputational risks to the business, as well as the health implications associated with a excessive dependence on luxury foods.

The shareholders – led by campaign group ShareAction – pointed to research from the University of Oxford and youth activist charity BiteBack. The non-governmental organization recently discovered this approximately 70% of Nestlé’s sales in Great Britain were from foods with a high fat, salt and sugar content.

Simon Rawson, ShareAction’s deputy chief executive, said: “While the vote we achieved today may be less than we wanted, the direction we are moving is clear. Investors and consumers recognize the importance of addressing the business risks and public health impacts of an industry that relies heavily on the sale of unhealthy food. They have growing expectations, not just from Nestlé, but from all food manufacturers.”

Nestlé, which is listed in Zurich and owns brands including KitKat and Yorkie chocolate bars and Quality Street sweets, said its own figures showed that 60% of sales, excluding pet food, came from “more nutritious or specialist food products” , and only 21% of sales. % of its portfolio was focused on delicious foods.

In a video message to shareholders, Chairman Paul Bulcke said Nestlé has always been committed to helping consumers make informed choices as part of a balanced diet. “Of course, this also means that you can occasionally and responsibly enjoy moments of indulgence, for example good chocolate,” he says.

“A small group of shareholders led by the NGO ShareAction wants us to move away from indulgent products. This is wrong. It will limit Nestlé’s strategic freedom and limit management’s ability to make decisions or make responsible decisions. The shareholder proposal is not in our interests, not for our consumers, and not for you.”

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In September, Nestlé came up with one nutritional purpose to sell ‘more nutritious’ products by 2030. According to ShareAction, it fell well short of investor expectations.

ShareAction said the nutritious sales target was simply in line with Nestlé’s overall growth forecasts and made no commitments on sales of unhealthy products, which could increase at a similar pace. As a result, this would not change Nestlé’s dependence on the sale of unhealthy products. The target also includes products such as coffee that have no nutritional value, it added.