Nestlé said on Wednesday it will halt several non-essential brands including KitKat chocolate and Nesquik in Russia, in an unprecedented move amid pressure on the world's top consumer goods company after criticism from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Nestlé shares were down 1.3% at 12:36 GMT, after hitting a session low shortly after the news. The statement was unusual for the maker of Maggi bouillon and Nescafe coffee, which has for decades continued to operate in war zones around the world.
Zelenskiy over the weekend called out several companies for staying in Russia after its invasion of Ukraine and accused Nestlé of not living up to its 'Good Food, Good Life' slogan.
In the days leading up to his comments, Nestlé had already been fielding online criticism from shoppers, activists, investors and political figures.
The company previously said it had halted non-essential exports and imports from Russia, stopped all advertising, and suspended capital investment. It also said it was not making a profit in Russia.
"We stand with the people of Ukraine and our 5,800 employees there," Nestlé said. It said it would continue to pay Russian employees.
Nestlé has for decades been a target of criticism by activist groups and governments over issues including the company's bottled-water manufacturing, its decision to stay in South Africa during apartheid, and its baby formula marketing practices.
"There's a history of protesting against Nestlé," said Jaideep Prabhu, a professor of marketing at the University of Cambridge's Judge Business School.
"Nestlé is much more front and centre than P&G and Unilever when it comes to people knowing that they make their products...Nestlé's logos are very prominent on its products."
Twitter user Amee Vanderpool, who has nearly 350,000 followers, posted, "Nestlé refuses to withdraw from Russia even after a desperate plea from Ukraine and President Zelensky." The post encouraged a boycott of products and included a list of Nestlé brands.
Nestle refuses to withdraw from Russia even after a desperate plea from Ukraine and President Zelensky. Here’s a roadmap of @Nestle products so that you can start your boycotts immediately. Send this out across all social media and email today. #boycottnestle pic.twitter.com/xWMCrtB4v9
— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) March 18, 2022
The company was also denounced by some Ukrainian politicians as well as hactivist group 'Anonymous', which also urged a boycott of its products.
"By refusing to stop business activities in Russia, @Nestle allows Russia’s war of aggression in Europe to continue," Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Ivanovych Kuleba, who has over 742,000 Twitter followers, tweeted on Thursday.
"Long-term damage to the company’s reputation is proportionate to the scale of Russian war crimes in Ukraine (enormous). Not too late to change your mind, Nestlé."