Avoiding Nestle Without Even Trying

I was aware from a very young age that my parents didn’t buy any Nestle products.  They explained the reasons for the boycott, and it made perfect sense to me.  After spending two years in Africa with the Peace Corps, those reasons made even more sense.  I don’t knowingly buy Nestle products, but the boycott is rarely something I think about.  It’s sort of like brushing my teeth – just something I do.

Recently there has been quite a bit of chatter in the blog world about the fact that BlogHer 10 is being sponsored in part by a couple of Nestle subsidiaries.  Several bloggers have decided to opt out of the conference, and others have been quite torn by the decision.  Attending conferences isn’t very high on my list of things I like to do, so this isn’t an issue for me.  But I know that it’s been painful for several bloggers who are actively involved in promoting breastfeeding.  (I’ve had BlogHer ads running on my site for a few years now, although I’ve manually opted out of having any ads for baby formula/bottles/nipples, etc.)

Boycotting Nestle takes more than just avoiding candybars and cocoa with their logo on it.  They own a tremendous number of other companies, and produce everything from bottled water and pet food to Lean Cuisine and Hot Pockets.  Actively boycotting them might require taking a list of the brands with you to the grocery store.

Unless you’re into frugal homemade food, and simple, whole, organic foods.

I will admit that even though I never knowingly purchase Nestle products, I hadn’t seen an updated list of their companies in years.  When I sat down to write this post, I checked out the list that I linked to above, and was happy to see that I’ve been avoiding Nestle without even trying.

I do my grocery shopping at the local co-op and at a small, regional chain health food store.  95% of what I buy is organic.  I do not buy prepared meals or processed food, which eliminates most of the companies owned by Nestle (and helps to keep my grocery bill down).  I make our own desserts, often inspired by something from Kristen’s Raw (I tend to make things that aren’t particularly fancy and take very little time to prepare).  We drink mostly water, but we don’t buy bottled water.  I don’t wear make-up, and we don’t buy candy or ice cream.  When I grocery shop, the cart is filled mostly with produce (not as much anymore since our garden is producing more – yay!) and stuff from the bulk bins like nuts, seeds, flour, coconut, etc.

Shopping at farmer’s markets, co-ops, and small health food stores has a lot of hidden benefits.  If I have to spend money on food, I like knowing that I’m supporting small local businesses as well as farms and companies that have similar values to my own.  Nestle is pretty bad, but let’s face it, so are a lot of other big corporations.  Buying food from small local companies makes it easier to have at least a bit of an idea where your money is going.

Going to thrift stores for non-food items is another great way to direct our dollars somewhere besides the pockets of big companies.  The thrift stores where I shop are non-profits devoted to helping the needy, the homeless, people with epilepsy, and people with developmental disabilities.  I know that there are some for-profit thrift stores out there, but most of the others are set up to raise money for various charitable causes, which is one more reason to shop there.

Shopping the way we do, for both food and everything else, makes our money go further and keeps us healthy and happy.  It works for us, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  And it has the added benefit of not contributing profits to companies that I find reprehensible.

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  1. says

    I try very hard to avoid nestle products. I dont think alot of people realise just how many products are Nestle. I have explained to my kiddies why I don’t support nestle and miss 7 is so on board.

  2. says

    I have to say that I’m lucky that Nestle isn’t so huge in my country. They own “the” name brand food company here, one that I refuse to buy, not for ethical reasons, but because it is so insanely overpriced. They also own have cereal and formula companies here. But aside for that? Its mostly local companies that I don’t mind supporting.
    But yes, making everything from scratch makes avoiding nestle quite easy.

    My problem comes when the cheap products I like to use are made in a country who I try to boycott for political reasons. Then I’m stuck. Frugality or ethics.

  3. Raj says

    Well, I dont know about America but Nestle is doing a lot of good work in fact for the local farmers, milk producers, meat producers etc in developing countries such as mine which is India and oh I just love their instant noodles product ‘maggi’

  4. Phyllis says

    If you get an opportunity, take the time to watch the documentary on water airing on the Sundance Channel. Corporations such as Coca-Cola, Nestle, and Pepsi are actively aquiring fresh water sources around the world. Scientists have predicted for years that water rights will be the issue of our children’s generation. These companys are getting a jump start (it’s on so few people’s radar yet) by gaining control of the best sources. Even in the US, rural communities are trying to fight back, but don’t have the political voice and economic power to fight a large corporation such as Nestle. These corporations are not helping theise communities, but damage if not destroy the eco-systems and thus the health and livelihoods of many of the people who live there.
    For the record, I studied water rights issues in grad school, so my thoughts are not based solely on one documentary. I suggest watching it as it covers many of the concerns in an accessable format.

  5. Patricia says

    I never heard of the Nestle Boycott. I am new to the frugal living, green living, some social issues, and the slow foods movement.

    Thank you for bring up the issue

  6. says

    I’m currently living outside of the US. I hadn’t realized until we moved here that most products labeled “General Mills” in the US (cereal especially) are labeled “Nestle” over here. Just a head’s up for those trying to boycott.

    Leslie: I’ll have to keep an eye out for that documentary! Sounds a lot like the plot of the most recent Bond film. “Art” imitates life! But seriously, water rights will definitely be the big issue of the future, and when you get right down to it, water is the primary human necessity.

  7. says

    I’m very saddened by the above comment on Nestle’s good work in India.

    There are a lot of misinformed people out there who feel this way – the number one formula in India Lactogen and the aggressive campaign by Nestle and their underhand dealings with the doctors have made a lot of middle class, below-poverty-line class people to think that Lactogen is a great alternative to breast milk. And this has changed the attitude of amss towards breastfeeding. My own mom who is well educated was forcing me to stop breastfeeding and just give my daughter formula. So did all my aunts and everybody I knew. One lone doctor supported me when I visited India, but even he was surprised that I breastfed that long (for christ’s sake.. my DD was just a year old at that time!).

    This was so shocking to me – that a country who was pro breastfeeding once has changed this way. When I spoke to my friends who have children of the same age as mine.. they feel the same way too – pressure to stop breastfeeding and give the damn lactogen so the babies would sleep better and bulk up better.

    Now people who are educated can make up their mind after reading all this – but what about people below poverty line.. they don’t have the funds to buy formula. and since they introduced the free formula that the hospitals gave for free when they were discharged, their breast milk supply had reduced and then dried up. The infant babies are malnourished and weak and end up in doctor’s waiting room getting sick every so often. It’s just so freaking sad.

    I consciously avoid Nestle – for all those babies who ended up being malnourished because of nestle.

  8. Kelly says

    Here in the US, the WIC program gives free formula to those who qualify..most of the time it’s enough to feed your baby for the month. I work at a hospital and I know that most of the women who deliver at my hospital are low income, teens, immigrants and just about ALL of them go with formula. Why? Because it’s free, they are not tied up with having to feed their baby and it’s less hassle for them to bottle feed the baby. Why breastfeed when they qualify for free formula(through WIC), food stamps, cash assistance?

    While I think WIC is a wonderful program when used appropriately, I think they make it TOO easy for a woman to choose formula over breast milk as in my experience, WIC (at least the offices in my area) do NOTHING to promote and support breastfeeding to new mothers.

    My sister was on WIC with all three of her girls and while she did breastfeed, she told them she was going to bottlefeed so she’d get the free formula to use later on when she did have to quit breastfeeding. The local WIC office did nothing to encourage her to breastfeed or anything like that. They took what my sister told them at face value and left it at that.

  9. Sherri says

    I breast fed 4 children, all of them a year. But, there was one time, for medical reasons that I was unable to nurse my son for some weeks. The ONLY formula he could keep down was Nestle. So for that I am greatful.

    I almost gave up nursing my oldest child because of the nursing consultant from a well known pro nursing organization and her militant attitude in dealing with some nursing problems I was having. Luckily, a very young nurse at the hospital encouraged me behind her back to continue on.

    I just find it a little ironic. So while I do believe in the great benefits of nursing and education about nursing, I wonder what would happen if Nestle folded and went out of business. What would happen to the children already on the formula? What would happen to those who work for the company? Are we ready for that? Are we ready economically to get behind the massive education campaign that would be neccesary? Are you willing to buy stock in the company and make your position known as a stockholder? Are there other solutions?

  10. FrugalBabe says

    Raj – I was going to reply to your comment but Kay already said everything I was going to say.
    Kelly – Good point. I know that a lot of the women receiving WIC assistance don’t have the option of staying home with their babies. But I wish WIC would take the money they spend on formula and instead provide high-quality breast pumps and breastfeeding support.
    Sherri – The Nestle boycott does not have anything to do with eliminating formula from existence. There are absolutely circumstances when formula is truly necessary (serious illness or death of a mother, for example), but they are rare. Nestle is being boycotted because of their absolutely unethical marketing practices in developing countries. The boycott has been going on for 33 years, and Nestle seems to care not at all about the ethical issues around their marketing campaigns. They are interested in making money, and little else.
    I don’t think that people participating in the boycott are hoping for a collapse of Nestle – the company is just too big and diversified for that. There is a simple four-point action plan that could end the boycott, but so far it hasn’t happened:
    Basically, I would like to see Nestle stop promoting formula in developing countries where babies often die when they aren’t breastfed. Free samples of formula run out, and the families can’t afford to buy more. But by then, the mother’s milk has dried up. In addition, powdered formula has to be mixed with water, and the water in developing countries is often contaminated. I lived in Africa for two years, and I never drank any water without first boiling it or mixing it with iodine. And I was a healthy adult. A tiny baby should never be drinking that sort of water.
    As far as children already on formula in developing countries, Nestle and the other formula companies could continue to provide (ideally for free) formula until those babies don’t need it anymore. But they absolutely should not be trying to expand their market in developing countries. Other companies are guilty of this too, but Nestle is by far the worst (and are thus the most boycotted company in history).

  11. Raj says

    well I didnt know about the babyfood issue, I was talking about their other products and anyway in a country like mine, mothers especially in rural areas breastfeed their children even when the more convenient alternative is there simply because the grandmas and mother inlaws wont allow anything else. Science may have discovered the advantages of breastfeeding babies over giving say cow milk or now babyfood but they have known it for ages.

  12. Judy says

    It was interesting to learn ‘bad’ side of Nestle which I also researched on other sites. However, as someone from a country devastated by AIDS, I would not want to see Nestle formula, which is the most widely marketed, being boycotted. Many new mothers have HIV or AIDS and do not breastfeed their babies so as not to infect them. Instead, they give them formula. You can only imagine how much suffering would be caused by a boycott. The boycott would work in the US where there are lots of options to choose from, but definitely not in my country.

  13. says

    I had heard of some of the unethical practices of discouraging breastfeeding in some countries but never knew who was responsible.
    Thanks for writing this post.
    We are thinking about having a baby eventually and one can’t have too much information.

  14. FrugalBabe says

    Raj – It’s great to hear that the rural mothers there are solidly behind breastfeeding. Hopefully they continue that tradition, regardless of marketing hype from companies like Nestle.

    Judy – The HIV/AIDS crisis is close to my heart, and was a major issue in the African country where I served in the Peace Corps. But Nestle has used this human tragedy for their own benefit. Despite what Nestle would like us to believe, feeding formula is not a magic bullet when mothers are HIV positive, as the formula comes with it’s own host of problems. Here’s a link with some more info:

  15. says

    FB- your kinda like the poster child for where many of us are heading, or, trying to head. I recently took over the grocery shopping from my husband and when I look in the cart I take an inventory of everything that is in a package in my cart. I either decide than and there to take it out because I have a non-package solution OR buy it and start thinking about a substitute for the product.
    I recently found out my Mom’s goal when she went to the store. She tried not to feed us food from a ‘box’. She too refused to buy anything from Nestle. I can still remember buying candy on the sly (we weren’t allowed sweets) and feeling guilty that children in foreign countries were suffering because I was eating this evil candy.

  16. says


    First, thank you for not deleting this email. ? I’m a member of the social media group at my organization, American Consumer Credit Counseling, which is a non-profit credit counseling agency. We’re reaching out to bloggers who we read to get a little advice about our new endeavor. Our brand new blog is full of free information for consumers who have fallen into credit card debt. As a non profit organization, we are not monetizing our blog with any advertising, or selling any ebooks, memberships or anything like that.

    I came upon your blog in my river-like meanderings through the blog world (is there any other way to navigate it) and I’m so happy I did. I very much resonate with your life style and your values- especially the clean, socially and environmentally conscious ones. I’ve worked in microfinance before and follow international development projects (on the sidelines for now…), so your Nestle post garnered a “Right On!” from me. Plus, in regards to budgeting, life style inflation is a danger that everybody- even those who teach budgeting to the community like me- have to be cautious of.

    This being said, you obviously have a lot of experience and strong understanding of the blog building process. Could you take a few moments and think of some feedback about these questions?

    What kind of advice can you give to “beginning bloggers”?
    Were any particular resources most helpful when you started your blog?
    Any pitfalls or traps we should avoid?
    Would you be interested in being a guest blogger later on as we develop readership?

    I and the social media team look forward to building an ongoing relationship with you.
    Thanks so much for your time, and thank you very much for your response.



    Social Media Team
    John T

  17. Lesley Keegan says

    I have been boycotting Nestle because they bought milk from Grace Mogabe’s dairies. She just took a lot of the successful farms from farmers and kept them for herself and gave some of the farms to her son.
    Robert and Grace Mogabe are guilty of the loss of so many hundreds of thousands of lives in Zimbabwe. Nestle should never have dealt with Grace Mogabe – I don’t think they gave ethics and values much thought when doing business with her.

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