Food giant Nestle to challenge pharma companies

Nestle is to launch a ‘health science’ division in January, investing an initial $500m in a business which it thinks can bridge the gap between food, health and pharmaceutical products.

The move will raise eyebrows in many parts of the world as Nestle has widely criticised for decades over its artificial milk products sold to mothers in third world countries.

Nestle chairman Peter Brabeck thinks the above markets are converging and says that “existing healthcare systems need redesigning.”

Various forms of medication are now increasingly seen as conventional over the counter products by consumers rather than something you need to go to the doctor for. Nestle is clearly trying to tap into this and says that, eventually, it hopes to make a contribution to tackling serious diseases like diabetes, heart problems and even Alzheimer’s.

It already makes a dog food, Pro Plan Senior, which it claims can help tackle the onset of Alzheimer’s in canines.

Competing with the likes of Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline is a major undertaking but Nestle is awash with cash following the sale of its US eyecare business Alcon to another drug firm Novartis.

And consumer products group Reckitt Benckiser has shown recently that it can be done, boosting the sales of brands like Strepsils which it acquired when it bought Boots’ pharma business.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.