Nestlé to suspend key lines including KitKat in Russia amid Ukraine conflict

Nestlé is set to suspend some of its biggest brands in Russia, including KitKat confectionery, amid pressure on major corporations to withdraw from the country amid its invasion of Ukraine, reports Neill Barston.

The move comes after the business, which is the world’s largest food company, said it would be scaling back its activities within the region in light of the war, which began last month and attracted a strong response of condemnation from governments around the world in calling for a swift, peaceful resolution.

An unprecedented level of economic sanctions have now been levelled at Russia from Western nations, and a number of major manufacturers including Mondelez and Mars have confirmed that they have substantially cut activity in the region, with operations in Ukraine being forced to temporarily shut down amid the conflict.

Furthermore, other confectionery groups including Ferrero have confirmed their support for humanitarian causes in the region, which have swung into action to assist millions of civilians impacted by the situation.

“As the war rages in Ukraine, our focus will be on providing essential food, not on making a profit,” Nestlé told the BBC, with the business now thought to be focused on essential staples such as baby products and nutritional items.

Last weekend, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky called on major Swiss companies including Nestlé to cease trading in Russia, following the country’s invasion of its Eastern European neighbour.

This followed a tweet from Denys Shmyhal, a senior government official in Ukraine, who said he had spoken to the food giant’s CEO Mark Schneider, claiming that he had ‘no understanding of the situation.’

As reported by Confectionery Production, the company boss had in fact posted on the social media platform himself to express his dismay at the situation, and explained the company would be responding with efforts to scale back its activities in the region, while offering support to employees as well as humanitarian aid.

The impact of the conflict is still being assessed, with major concern from industry regarding its impact on food supplies in relation to grain and wheat, used in a wide variety of food ranges, including confectionery and snacks. Other key ingredients suppliers have also expressed concerns about disruption to supply chains from manufacturing operations in the region.

Consequently, the UN has called for the conflict to be peacefully resolved, and launched a support appeal for $1.7 billion to support Ukraine, and the 10 million people who have reportedly been displaced from their homes, with some fleeing to neighbouring Poland and other European nations.

As for Nestlé’s efforts, its latest decision comes just weeks after it unveiled its annual 2021 report, alongside the company’s ‘creating shared value and sustainability report’, which outlined its key actions for food markets around the world.

It had noted a number of breakthroughs across its health and science-based portfolio, though acknowledged that last year had been another  challenging period for the business amid the pandemic. CEO Mark Schneider in his opening comments of the sustainability report, noted that it had placed CHF 1.2 billion into regenerative agricultural practices by 2025, which also included plans to eliminate deforestation in its cocoa supply chains by 2025.


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