Published: 06/10/2008

Bird nest brand means “Nestlé made” – really?

Vast numbers of consumers traditionally place great confidence in a global brand – particularly so in the case of food, whether for adults or their children and babies.

This is certainly true for Nestlé, the world’s largest food company. It is true not least because Nestlé does invest in ensuring rigorous standards. It is also true due to the work of thousands of dedicated Nestlé workers who are members of IUF-affiliated unions. Consumers see the “bird nest” brand icon and normally feel safe and assured.

They assume, implicitly or explicitly, that “made by Nestlé” means made by Nestlé workers in Nestlé facilities directed by Nestlé management directly accountable to Nestlé’s corporate headquarters. This assumption on the part of consumers is what justifies their faith in the brand – and their willingness to pay. That assumption, however, may be increasingly wrong and their faith misplaced!

The disappearing Nestlé worker.

To a growing extent, Nestlé is not employing (and certainly not employing in a responsible way) thousands of the workers making Nestlé products.

In the important growing Indonesian market for example, only 44% – significantly less than half – of the workers making Nestlé branded products in four factories and one warehouse are permanent Nestlé workers. This is typical of Nestlé in Asia and other poorer regions of the world. And in Europe over 10% of workers in Herten Germany, for instance, are agency workers making Nestlé Herten products…but not working for Nestlé. In Hungary (Diosgyori) over 20% are non-permanent, in Portugal (Avanca) over 25% and in the UK (York) almost one in eight workers are not permanent Nestlé employees.

Is the vanishing Nestlé factory next?

The use of third party producers (often called “co-packers”) will increasingly mean that the branded product for which consumers often pay a premium will come out of a non-Nestlé, “non-branded” factory, often a local one with no global brand or reputation to protect. They will of course have a machine that stamps the bird nest brand on the packaging before it leaves the factory!

The IUF Challenge to Nestlé: Come clean, back up the brand or market “Nestlé hybrid”!

The IUF challenges Nestlé to come clean with consumers and call their brand “Nestlé hybrid” with the “hybrid” meaning product made by non-permanent or non-existent Nestlé workers or made in non-Nestlé facilities. If they won’t we challenge Nestlé to take a close look at their employment practices so they can guarantee that branded Nestlé products are made in Nestlé facilities by Nestlé workers and managers on decent and permanent Nestlé work contracts.

Failure to do so will see consumers increasingly misled, putting their faith in a brand that should truthfully be called not “Nestlé” but “Nestlé hybrid” – and even Nestlé’s leaders and their investors know the “hybrid” is not what consumers think they are paying for when they buy the brand! They pay for and, rightly or wrongly, trust the bird’s nest logo. IUF members whose jobs and whose families’ welfare depend on that consumer confidence understand that only too well. Is it too much to expect that Nestlé’s talented leaders do too?