Nestlé launches Fairtrade coffee amid claims of cynical ploy
MULTINATIONAL giant Nestlé launches its first Fairtrade product today amid protests from pressure groups and Britain's biggest union.
The company has developed Partners Blend, a coffee made from Arabica beans grown in El Salvador and Ethiopia. Sold under the Fairtrade label, Nestl insists its latest coffee product will benefit hundreds of farmers in both countries.
It has put 560,000 into the project, providing better equipment, coffee agronomists to teach best practice and new houses for some of the workers.
But Nestl has been accused of launching its product - in a 1 million media campaign - to detract attention from the high-profile baby-milk issue, which has caused much controversy over the years.
Nestl stands accused of exercising an "aggressive" marketing strategy in the developing world, selling baby milk and undermining the benefits of breast-feeding. Sharon Greene, Unison women's officer, said: "This is a cynical attempt by Nestl to try to divert attention away from their scandalous baby-milk marketing activities in the world's poorest countries and their appalling employment practices."
Boycotting of Nestl products - which include Gold Blend coffee, KitKats and Shreddies - has occurred around the country, mainly in student unions.
However, a Nestl spokeswoman denied that the launch was a ploy, saying: "We have been working and developing this product with Fairtrade for the last two years, and making sure we are bringing to market a product that consumers will want and which ticks all the boxes. This product is about helping 3,500 farmers in Ethiopia and El Salvador, who are often the hardest hit in times of crisis."
Harriet Lamb, director of the Fairtrade Foundation, said the Nestl product was a "turning point" and the start of major companies taking an interest in fairer trading practices.
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