Nestle targets pregnant women in-store and on-line

Nestlé is promoting its SMA brand of formula using shelf talkers placed alongside infant formula, as in the example below from Wilkinson, Warrington, on 19 October 2013

Click on the images on this page for larger versions.

The shelf talker states: "How do I... Find the answers to all my questions before, during and after pregnancy?" and directs pregnant women and new mothers to the SMA website and telephone number, while promoting the SMA formula logo.

This demonstrates how Nestlé is attempting to compete with the health service, government initiatives such as start4life, children's centres, mother support groups and other sources of independent information to promote its formula brand and capture the contact details of pregnant women and new mothers.

The shelf talker is displayed next to SMA infant formula, in violation of the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007), which state (paragraph 23 - see the 'Law' section):

(1) No person shall at any place where any infant formula is sold by retail—
(a) advertise any infant formula;
(b) make any special display of an infant formula designed to promote sales;
(d) promote the sale of an infant formula by means of premiums, special sales, loss-leaders or tie-in sales; or
(e) undertake any other promotional activity to induce the sale of an infant formula.
 
The associated Guidance Notes setting out how the Regulations should be interpreted state:
 
‘Shelf-talkers’ … and other in-store promotional devices for follow-on formula must not be used in the vicinity of infant formula 
 
The website address given is http://www.smanutrition.co.uk/knowhow
 
This redirects to the site http://www.smamums.co.uk/
 
The screenshots show below were made on 4 November 2013.
 
The site also promotes the SMA formula logo at pregnant women and new mothers. It uses the slogan used in a television advertising campaign for SMA: "You're doing great".
 
 
Every page has the SMA formula logo and the slogan "90 years advancing baby nutrition", making it clear the purpose of the site is to promote the formula brand and nutrition products, despite directing pregnant women and mothers to the site on the pretence it will provide information on infant care.
 
Given this is the purpose of the site, the disclaimers regarding the importance of breastfeeding are disingenuous.
 
A tab is highlited in red, with the words "Product finder". This leads to the page below showcasing the full range of SMA formula, including infant formula.
 
 
Paragraph 21 of the Regulations, regarding the restrictions on advertising infant formula, states that infant formula can only be advertised in a scientific publication or for the purposes of trade prior to the retail stage, not to the general public. 
 
The Advertising Standards Authority confirmed with regard to an SMA-branded email campaign:
 
We told [the company] not to produce marketing communications for infant formula except in a scientific publication or, for the purposes of trade before the retail stage, a publication of which the intended readers were not the general public.
 
This ruling was made prior to Nestlé completing its takeover of the SMA brand, but the company informed Baby Milk Action it would abide by the ruling. Clearly it is not doing so as the marketing communication are on a website that is not only for the general public, but is promoted to the general public via the shelf talker and other methods.
 
Formula is specifically promoted, with an idealising presentation of added ingredients, and the suggestion the formula might be used "to combination feed with breastmilk", which is not recommended as it reduces a mother's lactation.
 
 
As previously noted, Nestlé's SMA labels violated the UK measures as the brand is the focus, whereas the Guidance Notes state:
 
51. the specific terms ‘infant formula’ and ‘follow-on formula’ should be clearly featured on the packaging, in a font size no smaller than the brand name.
 
The labels also include a mother's face, which is an idealising image.
 
Nestlé's shelf talkers and website have been reported to Trading Standards.
 
Nestlé has recently launched a similar website in the Republic of Ireland at http://www.smamums.ie/