The Garden of Life is an extremely popular nutritional health product line and the maker of organic and non-GMO supplements. From probiotics to detox courses, many of its products rank extremely well in popularity and consumer experience. Many of its consumers have expressed huge disappointment when the company announced this week that they are being bought by Nestlé, a Swiss food and drink company (commonly known for Nesquik drink and Kit Kat chocolates).
The deal is worth $2.3 billion and Nestlé is acquiring not just Garden of Life but its parents company Atrium Innovations. (The Garden of Life is their largest brand). Atrium, whose headquarters is in Quebec, Canada, is being sold to Nestlé by a group of investors from Permira Funds.
The consumers who trusted the Garden of Life to deliver high-quality, organic products are skeptical that they will be able to trust the brand when it is owned by Nestlé, a company which reputation has been most recent tarnished by a water lawsuit.
Nestlé’s Poor Reputation
Nestlé, one of the largest companies in the world, is currently facing a lawsuit in the United States which accuses one of its products, Poland Spring, of fraud. The lawsuit says that the brand is using common groundwater but sell it as “100% natural spring water.” Nestlé is fighting the claims.
This is not the first time the company faced this type of a lawsuit. In 2003, it settled a U.S. class action for $12 million. This lawsuit said Poland Spring comes from wells, not from natural springs as advertised.
Nestlé and its Infamous Statement on Water
This may be Nestlé’s biggest mistake to date. In 2000, at the second World Water Forum – an event that focuses at discussing clean water issues in the world – Nestlé along with a few other corporations actually persuaded the council to change access to drinking water from a human right to a human need. This allowed Nestlé to keep their control on clean drinking water and making more profit from it.
Nestlé Chairman Emeritus Peter Brabeck said that he believes that a little over one percent of drinking water is a human right, but the vast majority of it is not, because a value should be placed on it to prevent misuse (a policy that sounds more reasonable than bloggers make it out to be, but is still controversial especially because of the way it was stated). He later tried to take his statement (learn more here) back and said that water is a right but is being used irresponsibly as in for other uses than drinking and hygiene. The consumers were not convinced that his concern for water scarcity was genuine. After all, Nestlé’s whole history is full of controversies.
Nestlé’s Sordid History
Nestlé’s history, which began in 1866, has many controversies. The first big scandal happened in 1970s concerning baby milk substitute. A boycott was launched to fight against Nestlé’s aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes, which targeted mainly the poor and people in developing countries. During the boycott multiple groups such as the International Baby Food action Network argued that infant formula led to health issues and even deaths of some children.
While breastfeeding is healthier and recommended by the World Health Organization, one of the issues leading to health problems is that the formula had to be mixed with water – often tainted in developing countries. In these countries, breast-milk is even more beneficial as it passes protection to the child and builds the immune system to fight against different bacteria.
Disregarding all of this, Nestlé pushed their baby formula on the mothers who did not have access to information that would tell them the truth.
Unethical marketing of baby formula continues to this day. In 2011, Nestlé was found to be providing incentives to doctors and nurses who push infant formula on their patients.
Finally, the company had multiple food safety issues over the years.
Nestlé’s Food Safety Issues
In 2008, six children died from kidney damage and 860 children were hospitalized when melamine (a chemical used in plastic) was found in Chinese-made Nestlé milk product. The deaths happened at a time in which many local Chinese brands were also found to be poisoning local children with the chemical. As many as 300,000 illness in babies were recorded, leading to the mass dumping of milk products.
This was the biggest and most deadly but not the only food contamination issue.
In 2009, E. coli outbreak happened to Nestlé’s cookie dough in the U.S. Over 50 people became sick, and many needed to be hospitalized.
In 2015, there were live worms and fungus found in baby food. The incident was singular.
Same year it was found that Maggi noodles sold in India had up to 17 times more lead than considered “safe” (no amount of lead is safe), as well as the noodles contained monosodium glutamine (MSG). Lead-contaminated noodles were also found in five African nations.
From unethical marketing to poor ingredient quality regulations, it is no surprise that Nestlé buying the Garden of Life might bring down the quality of the brand’s organic products.