In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Baby Milk Action website, www.babymilkaction.org, which was running a DanoNO campaign – which was asking campaigners to help expose what Danone is doing regarding sponsoring health worker events and charities. It was asking people to “Say NO to formula company sponsorship – say DanoNO!”
According to the DanoNo campaign page: “Danone is stepping up its targeting of health workers and the public around the world, in violation of international baby milk marketing standards. In the UK Danone’s formula brands are Aptamil and Cow & Gate.”
Baby Milk Action’s 2016 Monitoring Report had referenced Danone in a number of cases where the company was seen to be in breach of law governing the marketing and sale of baby milk formulas.
Regarding advertising the report stated the following: “Danone is countering Nestlé’s SMA PRO launch with its new Aptamil PRO formula, with prominent displays across Boots stores. Baby Milk Action has received pictures showing the infant formula being promoted on the special displays, which is illegal. Sometimes when challenged, managers have claimed it was a mistake to include the infant formula alongside the follow-on formula, which can be promoted under weak UK Regulations.”
Baby Milk Action had also challenged Danone’s advertisements for Aptamil products: “it advertised the brand as giving babies skills. For example, a peak-time television advertisement suggests it turns babies into mathematical geniuses (front cover) and gives them the strength, balance and stamina to be ballerinas (below). The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rejected Baby Milk Action’s complaints, arguing that these are common skills. The advertising promotes the Aptamil brand. Danone argues it is for follow-on formula, but labels all products in the range almost identically (in breach of UK Regulations). Danone falsely claims in small print that follow-on formula is not a breastmilk substitute. At the same time, the larger message states it is based on “40 years breastmilk research” implying it is the same as breastmilk”.
Danone was also accused of targeting parents, with reference being given to the Danone giving Aptamil-branded bears as a gift to pregnant women and new mothers to encourage them to join its branded parenting club. According to the report “various articles in the UK Regulations aim to ensure that pregnant women and parents are not targeted with gifts or misleading information, but these do not work in practice.”
Baby milk action website (8 January 2020)