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Nestlé pulls the plug on the Perrier Award

Press release 14 June 2006

The BBC is reporting that the long-running Perrier Award for Comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe is no more.

Right: A 12-feet high puppet and Member of the Scottish Parliament, Mark Ballard, joined demonstrators leafleting outside the 2004 Perrier Award (click here for hi-resolution version).

The Award was becoming increasingly controversial due to the activities of Nestlé, owner of Perrier and one of the world's most boycotted companies because of its aggressive marketing of baby foods. An alternative sponsor has been found by the organisers.

Comedians, including Rob Newman, Emma Thompson, Steve Coogan (right) and Victoria Wood called for a boycott in 2001 and the alternative Tap Water Awards were organised as a result. Boycott supporters have organised demonstrations outside the Perrier event.


Mark Thomas investigated Nestle for his Channel 4 programme The Mark Thomas product and said on hearing the news:

"Perrier's decision to back out of the comedy awards is to be welcomed. Neither Perrier nor Nestlé mentioned the negative publicity that the Perrier award in Edinburgh has attracted in recent years as a factor for their withdrawal. However, the work of campaigners and activists (highlighting Nestlé's aggressive marketing of powdered baby milk in developing world and the consequences of this) must be a factor in the company's decision to quit the festival. The question to ask the company is, if everything is going so well why pull out? I believe that the work of the Tap Water Awards and Baby Milk Action has played a significant part in Perrier/Nestlé's decision. Well done to them!"

Mark Ballard, Green MSP, said:

"I am delighted that Perrier have withdrawn their sponsorship from the comedy awards and will cease to sully Edinburgh’s wonderful festival with Nestlé's bad name. Nestlé has come top of the rankings of the world’s least responsible companies. I for one will be adding my custom to the awards ceremony for the first time since Perrier took over sponsorship."

(See the broadcasts section for interviews with Emma Thompson and Steve Coogan).

In addition, the damaging environmental and social impact of the operations of Nestlé Waters in Brazil, the United States, Switzerland and Hungary has recently made the Perrier Award a rallying point for water campaigners. The destructive environmental impact of Nestlé's Pure Life bottled water business was the subject of BBC Radio 4’s Face the Facts expose on 22nd July 2005. Baby Milk Action has working with the Tap Water Awards and Scottish World Development Movement on an event to take place in the 2006 Fringe exposing the role of Nestlé and other transnational corporations in water.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Netwokring Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, which coordinates the international Nestlé boycott said:

"Perrier is saying it wanted to 'explore new opportunities' but why pull the plug on one of the best-reported events at the Fringe? It is because the Award presented an ideal opportunity for campaign supporters to raise awareness of the company's baby food marketing malpractice. Nestlé has been voted the world's 'least responsible company'. Its behaviour is no laughing matter, so good riddance to Nestlé. Unless it changes its business practices campaigners will continue to expose it wherever the opportunity presents itself."

In May Baby Milk Action organised leafleting at Body Shop outlets as Nestlé owns 28.8% of L'Oreal which has taken over a company once lauded for its ethical approach to business (click here for information and photos).

Monitoring conducted by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) around the world finds Nestlé to be responsible for more violations of the baby food marketing requirements adopted by the World Health Assembly than any other company. See the codewatch section for further information.

In January 2005, Nestlé was voted to be the world's 'least responsible company' in a global internet vote. In September 2005, a GMIPoll found Nestlé to be one of the four most boycotted companies in the world and the most boycotted in the UK (see notes).

Broadcast quality footage of demonstrations is available.

For further information contact Tel: 01223 464420 Mobile: 07986 736179.

Notes for editors

  1. Nestlé is the target of the boycott as independent monitoring finds it is responsible for more violations of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequnet, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly than any other company.

  2. Baby Milk Action is a not-for-profit organisation and the UK member of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN). It is funded by membership fees, merchandise sales and donations, along with grants from development organisations and charitable trusts.

  3. The boycott of Nestlé focuses on Nescafé, its flagship product, but Baby Milk Action lists the brands from which Nestlé profits so boycott supporters can avoid them all. Guardian reported on 1 September 2005: "What do Nike, Coca Cola, McDonald's and Nestlé have in common? Apart from being among the world's most well-known brands, they happen to be the most boycotted brands on the planet. That finding came from this week's global GMIPoll, an online opinion poll that surveyed 15,500 consumers in 17 countries. Nestlé emerges as the most the most boycotted brand in the UK because of what respondents consider its "unethical use and promotion of formula feed for babies in third world countries."

  4. Nestlé won a global internet poll for the world's 'least responsible company' coinciding with the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2005. Nestlé received 29% of the votes. This was more than twice that of joint second Monsanto and Dow Chemicals (of Bhopal infamy), each on 14% ( click here for details ).

  5. For information on baby food marketing malpractice see the codewatch and boycott sections of this website. The Corporate Watch website has a detailed report on Nestlé.

  6. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed. See the Your Questions Answered section.

  7. Nestlé's 49% stake in holding company Gesperal, which controlled L'Oreal, became a direct holding of 26.4% in L'Oreal in 2004.

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