Nestle soaked in water controversy around the world

Why do people hate Nestle? Why are people in Chaffee County up in arms over a water deal that in the overall scheme of things is a drop in the bucket, both to Nestle and to the Arkansas River?

It may have something to do with baby formula. In the 1970s, Nestle — up until then best known for Nestea iced tea and NesQuik chocolate milk mix — began marketing baby formula in third world countries. People didn’t need it, they couldn’t afford it, and worst of all they mixed it with dirty water and made their babies sick.

People have been boycotting Nestle for one reason or another ever since. They are the company everyone loves to hate. Today, Nestle is the largest food company in the world, with more than 450 factories in more than 80 countries. They are one of a handful of companies with a presence in every country in the world.

Nestle bought the Arrowhead Water brand in 1987 and Perrier in 1992. If you were to name 10 food brands randomly, five would probably belong to Nestle. According to Wikipedia, Nestle owns something like 300 brands altogether.

In water alone, Nestle owns more than 30 brands. Among them: Arrowhead, Ice Mountain, Perrier, Poland Spring, Pure Life and San Pellegrino.

It probably isn’t impossible to boycott Nestle these days, but it isn’t easy. Brands include: Cheerios, Golden Grahams, Shredded Wheat, Taster’s Choice, Carnation, Libby’s, Juicy Juice, Coffee-Mate, Dreyer’s, Haagan Dazs, Oreo, Gerber, PowerBar, Stouffer’s, Lean Cuisine, Buitoni, Hot Pockets, Toll House, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, Chips Ahoy!, Kit Kat, Wonka, Alpo, Friskies, Purina. Some brands are owned by Nestle in one country but not in another.

Lately, water seems to be Nestle’s big bugaboo. Nestle has been embroiled in legal actions for years in Michigan as residents have fought what they see as the privatization of a public resource. The battle there has sometimes been more personal as people have complained that Nestle has depleted local water sources.

Today, the battle has moved, at least in part, to Colorado where for now at least, Nestle has the upper hand.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.


  1. […] They handed out a month of formula for free to new mothers in starving countries in Africa. Sounds nice at first, right? Wrong. One month of not breastfeeding your baby makes your milk dry up and then you become dependent on formula, which is expensive. Formula is a powder you mix with water. The local water was not clean, so the babies got diarrhea and many died that way. The moms could tolerate the water, but babies have under-developed immune systems (something they rely on breast milk to get, especially in third-world countries). Basically they were tricking starving people into buying their product unnecessarily and unsafely. “People didn’t need it, they couldn’t afford it, and worst of all they mixed it with dirty water and made their babies sick” (Source). […]

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