Nestlé Opts for Scant Communication Strategy During Horse Meat Scandal

Image: Nestlé

The scandal regarding beef products adulterated with horse meat escalated across Continental Europe on Feb. 20, as Nestlé began removing pasta meals with traces of horse DNA.

And while Nestlé is doing right by its European customers in removing the product, it could do a better job of communciating its  messages internationally.

Nestlé, which is based in Switzerland, said that it had increased testing after the discoveries of horse meat in British foods and “traces” of horse DNA in two products made with beef supplied by a German company, H. J. Schypke, according to The New York Times.

“There is no food safety issue, but the mislabeling of products means they fail to meet the very high standards consumers expect from us,” Nestlé said in a statement. Nestlé also said it was confident that products in the American market were unaffected.

Nestlé knows well the importance of its brand image, having once been the object of a boycott after being involved in a controversy over the marketing of baby milk in developing countries, according to the Times.

There was no break in the regularly scheduled programming on Nestlé's Facebook page and on its Twitter feed, and there was only one statement posted on Nestlé's media site. 

In a digital age, a single statement published on a corporate media site is unlikely to reach customers and prospects (unless, of course, the Times picks it up). Though Nestlé's goal was likely to minimize the story, the strategy, in a way, can be interpreted as hiding from the issue. 

A few messages spread across its global social media accounts, even if they were just linking to the statement, would have provided Nestlé's audience with more transparent and open dialogue.

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg

  • Mia Huey

    Nestle seems to generally fall behind when it comes to communicating with their consumers. Apart from an increase in transparency and open communication, Nestle really needs to work at building community among their audience especially on social media platforms. Using sites like Twitter or Facebook to respond immediately to crises such as this would help them reduce such negative feedback.