Nestlé Fairtrade KitKat is included on the Nestlé boycott list. Nestlé is the target of a boycott because it systematically breaks baby food marketing rules so contributing to the unnecessary death and suffering of babies. Company executives put profits before health so the boycott gives them a financial reason to think again and has prompted some changes.

Nestlé has tried to improve its image by introducing Fairtrade KitKat, which some people incorrectly think makes it a fair trade company. The chocolate bar involves less than 3% of Nestlé’s cocoa purchase (2.6%).

Download our Why boycott Nestlé Fairtrade KitKat leaflet to tell people the facts. This can be printed double sided and cut in half to make two A5 leaflets. Our suggested message below can be adapted for posting as a comment on articles that highlight KitKat without mentioning other concerns.

Nestle and the Fairtrade mark

Nestlé is ‘widely boycotted‘ (to use the words of the company’s Global Public Affairs Manager) because its baby milk marketing violates international standards, so undermining breastfeeding and endangering babies fed on formula. Nestlé is the global market leader.

Many boycott supporters do support the Fair Trade concept – a certification system requiring producers to abide by minimum standards for employment conditions, to ensure child labour is not involved in their supply chain and to pay a fair price to suppliers.

In the UK, certification is organised by the Fairtrade Foundation, which awarded the Fairtrade mark to Nestlé’ 4-finger KitKat in 2010 and 2-finger KitKat from 2013. Nestlé says it will be buying 9,600 tonnes of cocoa through the Fairtrade scheme. Its annual purchase is about 365,000 tonnes, meaning this represents just 2.6% of the total.

Legal action has been taken by US campaigners on behalf of former child slaves who worked on farms supplying Nestlé and other companies. The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre reported in December 2013 that despite Nestlé trying to have the case thrown out of court it will now go ahead: ‘The plaintiffs allege that they were forced to work long hours without pay, kept in locked rooms when not working and suffered severe physical abuse by those guarding them.  The plaintiffs allege that the companies aided, abetted or failed to prevent the torture, forced labour and arbitrary detention that they had suffered as child slaves.’

In 2005 the Fairtrade Foundation awarded the mark to Nestlé Partners’ Blend coffee, which involves just 0.1% of the coffee farmers dependent on the company, while Nestlé is accused of driving down standards for the rest – click here for the controversy over Partners’ Blend.

The announcement that that the Fairtrade mark would be added to 2-finger KitKat in January 2013 was actually made at the end of October 2012, two days before International Nestlé-Free Week 2012 – the timing of the announcement was clearly an attempt to try to divert attention from the week.

Baby Milk Action conducted a survey through its website at the time of the Partners’ Blend launch and of 500 who responded, 95% were boycotting Nestlé and 92% said they bought Fairtrade products, while 45% said their support of the Fairtrade mark would change if Nestlé received it. There was widespread confusion about the meaning of the Fairtrade mark as two-thirds of respondents said if they saw the mark they believed it indicated there were no significant ethical concerns about the company. In truth, the certification process only involves checking the practices surrounding the product on which the mark appears.

When the 4-finger KitKat received the Fairtrade mark, it was announced that 6,000 farmers would benefit from supplying cocoa for it, gaining about an extra £400,000 per year from the Fairtrade premium. This has risen to 7,000 farmers with the addtion of 2-finger KitKat. Nesté’s is again receiving global publicity for a fraction of the price of the sums it pays on advertising (for example, it spent £43 million on the Nescafé UK advertising campaign it ran in 2010).

The following message was posted on reports about the award of the Fairtrade mark by Baby Milk Action’s Campaigns Coordinator at the time:

What a Public Relations coup for Nestlé – whose KitKat bar you have mentioned in your article. Only 2.6% of Nestlé’s cocoa purchase is involved in KitKat and it is criticised for failing to act on a 2001 undertaking to end child slavery in the supply chain of the rest by 2006.

Nestlé Fairtrade KitKat is on Baby Milk Action’s list of products to boycott to put pressure on Nestlé executives to stop marketing baby milk using strategies that violate international standards. Nestlé’s latest global marketing strategy is to claim its formula is the ‘natural start’, the ‘gentle start’ and ‘protects’ babies. In reality babies fed on formula are more likely to become sick than breastfed babies and, in conditions of poverty, more likely to die. The Nestlé boycott has prompted some changes and admissions, but more pressure is needed as Nestlé continues to defend the colourful logos it has added to labels and most of the promotional material containing misleading claims. Nestlé also refuses to bring its warnings and instructions into line with World Health Organisation guidance on how to reconstitute powdered formula, so putting babies who have to be fed on formula at additional risks.

Nestlé is also accused of trade union busting activities in Colombia and refusing to accept court rulings in the Philippines over workers’ rights. For information on these and other issues, see the Nestlé Critics site:

You can find evidence of what Nestlé is really doing and a leaflet explaining why to boycott Fairtrade KitKat at:

There are companies that are 100% Fairtrade which deserve supporting by those who back this initiative, rather than Nestlé that uses its token Fairtrade chocolate bar to divert criticism and gain undeserved publicity.

Note on calculations

Nestlé’s infographic about its 2-finger KitKat joining 4-finger KitKat with the Fairtrade mark says that 9,600 tonnes will be purchased from 7,000 farmers.

Although it was reported in 2009 at the time of the 4-finger KitKat gaining the Fairtrade mark that 6,000 farmers were involved, the new infographic suggests that the number involved was actually 2,500.

According to Nestlé Creating Shared Value report 2011, it aims to buy 40,000 tonnes of cocoa in 2012 through its own cocoa plan scheme (through which Nestlé ties in suppliers through offers of better treatment) and this will represent 11% of its entire cocoa purchase. From these figures, it can be calculated that Nestlé purchases about 364,000 tonnes in total per year. A clear statement of the total purchase has not be found in the report (it is noted, however, that the Trading Visions site gave Nestlé’s purchase in 2008 as 370,000 tonnes, so if this has actually increased, the Fairtrade percentage will be even smaller than 2.6%).