Nestle vs. Nestle

Baby behaving badly

This started out as a more or less routine post on child obesity, about a study showing that kids are developing poor eating habits quite early in life. Then I noticed that the study had been sponsored by the Nestle Nutrition Institute (NNI), and I thought to myself: Nestle? Is that the same Nestle USA that sailed barges of junk food up the Amazon last year? Now they’re warning us about bad toddler eating habits? Sounds a bit like the National Rifle Association advising mom and dad to keep the family Glock collection out of their toddler’s hands because, you know, kids under two don’t always shoot real straight. Somebody could get hurt.

So I checked to see how closely related NNI and Nestle USA really are, and was reassured to find that NNI bills itself as an “independent non-profit organization,” which could lead one to believe that the Nestle name being attached to both organizations is just a big coincidence. (Who’d have guessed that Nestle was such a common name?)

Alas, my reassurance was short-lived, because there on NNI’s home page is a prominent link to nestle.com, Nestle USA’s home page. And at nestle.com there’s the toddler study itself, with a link to NNI. The CEO of NNI sits on the Executive Board of Nestle USA, too. Such a cornucopia of coincidences!

I came up with a few scenarios that might explain the apparent chuminess of a serious nutrition resource  (NNI really does have a lot of good information on its site) and the maker of such less-than-healthy snacks as Chips Ahoy cookies, Oreos (only in Canada, for some reason), Goobers, Raisinets, Nerds, SweeTarts, Butterfingers, Nesquik, Dreyers ice cream, Haagen-Dazs, Tombstone Pizza, Digiorno Pizza, Hot Pockets, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cookie Crisp, Trix, Toll House cookies, Baby Ruth, Wonka Bars and, of course, Nestle Crunch bars–available in a dozen varieties. (There’s even more here…including, probably not ironically, Lean Cuisine and Jenny Craig.)

Maybe:

  • Nestle USA has a conscience and really wants to make its cookies and candy bars as nutritious as possible, or
  • Nestle USA needs an ethical fig leaf to cover the fact that it really just wants to sell tons of cookies and candy bars, or
  • Scientists at NNI grit their teeth and go about their research every day in hopes that Brad Alford, Chairman and CEO of Nestle USA, means it when he says his company is “founded on the principles of nutrition, health and wellness,” and that the success of his company is measured by its ability to “create value for society,” and that in such spirit he will one day green-light the addition of iron, probiotics, and wheat germ to Nestle’s Butterfingers.

Seriously, the Nestle Nutrition Institute does a lot of good work, and the study is worth a read. But the Nestle-Nestle connection is a bit creepy.

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