Nestle said on Wednesday it would suspend several non-essential brands in Russia, including KitKat and Nesquik chocolate, in an unprecedented move amid pressure on the world’s leading consumer goods company following criticism from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Nestle shares were down 1.3% at 12:36 GMT, having hit a session low shortly after the news. The statement was unusual for the maker of Maggi broth and Nescafe coffee, which has continued to operate in war zones around the world for decades.
Over the weekend, Zelensky criticized several companies for staying in Russia after Ukraine’s invasion and accused Nestle of failing to live up to its “Good Food, Good Life” motto.
In the days before his comments, Nestlé had already drawn criticism online from buyers, activists, investors and political figures.
The company had already said that it had stopped non-essential exports and imports from Russia, that it had suspended all advertising and capital investments. He also said that he was not making a profit in Russia.
“We stand with the Ukrainian people and with our 5,800 employees,” said Nestle, who said it would continue to pay its workers in the country.
For decades, Nestlé has come under fire from activist groups and governments over issues including the company’s manufacture of bottled water, its decision to remain in South Africa during apartheid, and its baby formula marketing practices.
“There is a history of protests against Nestle,” said Jaideep Prabhu, a marketing professor at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School. “Nestlé is much more up front and direct than P&G and Unilever when it comes to letting people know what products they make … Nestlé logos are very prominent on their products.”
Twitter user Amee Vanderpool, who has almost 350,000 followers, posted on Sunday: “Nestlé refuses to withdraw from Russia even after a desperate request from Ukraine and President Zelensky.”
The post encouraged a boycott of the products and included a list of Nestlé brands.
The company was also denounced by some Ukrainian politicians, as well as the “Anonymous” hacker group, which also called for 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 Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who has more than 742,000 Twitter followers, tweeted Thursday.
“The long-term damage to the company’s reputation is commensurate with the scale of Russian war crimes in Ukraine (enormous). It’s not too late to change your mind, Nestle,” he added.