Nestlé has denied allegations that it violated its commitments on advertising to children by co-branding a new range of candy bars with the Girl Scouts of the USA.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and Berkeley Media Studies Group have claimed that Nestlé broke its pledge not to market candy to children by releasing a new line of Girl Scout-themed Crunch candy bars, which feature the Girl Scout logo in limited edition Girl Scout cookie flavors, Thin Mints, Caramel & Coconut, and Peanut Butter Crème. The groups say that the Girl Scout branding will attract the attention of and appeal to children, and have written to Nestlé asking it to stop using the branding.
However, Nestlé denied the allegations, saying that the marketing of the candy bars is directed toward adults.
The company said in an emailed statement: “Contrary to the assertions of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, we are not engaging in child-directed advertising or marketing for Nestlé Crunch Girl Scout Candy Bars sold at grocery stores, convenience stores and mass market retail outlets which are primarily adult-oriented venues. Nestlé Crunch Girl Scout Candy Bars were developed to appeal to an adult audience, and our advertising and marketing efforts are directed accordingly.”
CSPI nutrition policy director Margo Wootan said: "It's not credible for the company to claim these are marketed exclusively to adults, any more than if their labels bore Dora the Explorer instead of the Girl Scouts."
Nestlé USA’s commitment on marketing to children is part of its membership of the voluntary industry self-regulation program, the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), whose members pledge to shift the mix of foods advertised to children under 12 to "encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles".
Vice president of the CFBAI Elaine Kolish also defended Nestlé’s partnership with the Girl Scouts, saying that the company complies with its commitment under the initiative “because it is not engaging in child-directed advertising for products with a Girl Scout logo.”
“Our program does not apply to packaging at point of sale because grocery stores are primarily adult-oriented venues,” she said.
Director of Berkeley Media Studies Group, a project of the Public Health Institute, Lori Dorfman, disagreed.
Dorfman said: “Even if the candy bar advertising is targeted towards adults, the Girl Scouts image appeals to children and so constitutes marketing to children."