In 2015 a market analysis carried out by OC&C Strategy Consultants crowned Nestlé as the largest and strongest of all fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies; having earned $100.2 billion in sales throughout the previous 2014 year alone. Nestlé’s brand Maggi – which offers a range of seasonings, bouillons, sauces and soups –, on the other hand, is at the moment considered the number one food brand of the world according to a brand footprint analysis carried out by the Kantar World Panel in 2016.
Behind the colossal corporation
Kit Kat, Coffee Mate, Nesquik, Perrier and Purina are merely a tiny fraction of brands that stand below colossal Nestlé’s umbrella; which now holds more than 2,000. Named by Fortune magazine as one of the world’s most admired companies (Interbrand, 2015), this gigantic multinational corporation claims to have “health and wellness” as key pillars backing up its operations. Lately, Nestlé has been busy announcing its plans to lower the quantities of sugar and salt in some of its products being sold in certain parts of the world; and in the past the corporation has also shown some concern about the amount of artificial colors and flavors contained in some of its products.
Though it is nice to hear how this giant worries from time to time about what it actually feeds the world, Nestlé has also been known for its controversy; with its reputation laying very far away from that of being a gentle giant. From an instant baby formula conflict in the 1970s to numerous legal battles over water extraction in the U.S. or from being linked to rainforest destruction in Indonesia to having quite negative labor relationships all around the globe; at the end of the day Nestlé is not exactly a very exemplary company.
Latest news surrounding this multinational corporation revolve around misleading claims regarding its Poland Spring’s water brand; which appears to be regular bottled ground water instead of being bottled spring water as they have been advertising throughout the years. According to lead plaintiff, Mark Patane, many of the water collection sites are also located close to a current or former human waste dump, landfill, petroleum dump site, ash pile and a few other unsuitable places (Teller, S.E., 2017). At the same time Nestlé has also been witnessing resistance in Michigan, where the public disagrees with the corporation’s most recent application for pumping 60% more water from one of its wells without paying more than the annual $200.00 it already pays. Vice president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, Jeff Ostahowski, has firmly stated that this is water that should be going back into creeks, the Muskegon River to lastly reach Lake Michigan; instead of being extracted by the billionaire corporation (Zorthian, J., 2017).
A deep look into Maggi Bouillons
Maggi Bouillons range offers three main flavors of chicken bouillon, beef bouillon and vegetable bouillon. One of the first things to know is that the recipes for Maggi’s bouillons vary depending on where you find yourself in the world. Different versions contain not just different ingredients, but also variations in pungency and concentration. When it comes to the chicken bouillon product that is currently being sold in the U.S., the respective ingredients list consists of the following:
When it comes to the beef and vegetable flavor bouillons products being sold in the U.S., the only thing that changes is the use of dehydrated beef instead of chicken, the inclusion of TBHQ as a preservative, dried leek, garlic powder and artificial flavors.
Salt, sugar, corn starch, chicken fat, caramel, parsley and turmeric are ingredients that are probably easy to place for most of us. No weird stuff, just straightforward food. Hydrogenated palm oil, monosodium glutamate (MSG), disodium inosinate and TBHQ however, start sounding a bit more bizarre.
Hydrogenated palm oil is created when joining a hydrogen atom to the double bonds of fatty acid chains (Zogheib, S., 2016); an artificial process whose outcome renders a semisolid oil substance opposing to that of its initial liquid state. Health concerns related to hydrogenated oils rely mostly in that it is a noticeable source of trans fat. Studies have linked trans fats to heart disease as they tend to increase LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while reducing “beneficial” HDL cholesterol (Harvard Medical School, 2007).
MSG is naturally “a salt of the amino acid Glutamic Acid (glutamate)” (MSG Truth, 2007), which is naturally produced by the human body and also develops in foods such as tomatoes, cheese, human breast milk, amongst others (Nogrady, B., 2015). Back in 1908 Japanese chemistry professor Kikunae Ikeda discovered that by isolating it from dried kelp and further stabilizing it with sodium, he could turn MSG into a useful powder that could be added to foods. Providing them with the so famous umami or savory flavor. Ever since, artificially created MSG has been used in processed edible products and cooking all over the world. Some studies carried out throughout the past 40 years have managed to identify a connection in between the ingestion of MSG with asthma and migraine. Yet, some experts continue claiming that the data is not consistent enough as to fully support the findings (Freeman, M., 2006). In 2000 additional research found out that MSG acts as an over-stimulator of the immune system which can negatively affect Alzheimer’s and allergies patients (Bardor, J.B., 2013).
Disodium inosinate is frequently used as a flavor enhancer paired with MSG, and is a natural sodium salt often found in animal meats. A lot of questions remained unanswered when it comes to this ingredient. While some point it out as being linked to kidney issues and an increase in heart rate (Be Food Smart, 2012); not enough and reliable research has been done to clarify doubts with respect to the secondary effects of this additive.
On the other hand, preservative TBHQ or tertiary butylhydroquinone is “a synthetic antioxidant that is added to foods to prevent or delay oxidation” (Best Food Facts, 2016). Studies have shown that long term and large doses of this preservative have led to the development of cancer in laboratory animals and that the consumption of high dosages “can cause, nausea, delirium, collapse, tinnitus, and vomiting” (Botes, S., 2011).
The healthiest of substitutes when it comes to Maggi’s bouillons are homemade vegetable, chicken or beef broths. By cooking it yourself, you have control over the veggies and meat you use, plus freedom of choice when deciding on the amount of salt and sugar you put in it.
Nonetheless, whenever you happen to be in a hurry and do not have enough time to prepare your own broth, there are a variety of organic broth options that can perfectly replace Maggi’s bouillons. Brands such as Trader Joe’s, Swanson, Imagine, Whole Foods 365, Pacific along with a few others offer organic boxed broths that are usually very tasty.
Call to action
As customers we have the inherent right to knowing what we are exactly buying and who we are buying it from; especially if that which we buy ends up in our mouths and consequently inside our bodies. Only by knowing about the ingredients, processes, actions and values that stand behind the products we buy, can we know whether we are giving our money to the right companies. So let’s continue striving for supporting those products that respect ourselves, our natural world and the magnificent creatures that inhabit it. Let each and every one of our purchases become a vote for life.
Amazon “Maggi Granulated Beef Flavor Bouillon Cubes, 2.82 oz” (2017) Grocery. Amazon.com, 2017. Web. 30 August 2017 https://www.amazon.com/Maggi-Vegetable-Flavor-Bouillon-Cubes/dp/B008VSY76Q/ref=pd_sim_325_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B008VSY76Q&pd_rd_r=58T08MYAHSDGX3PAPAE7&pd_rd_w=00lhp&pd_rd_wg=RWX0t&psc=1&refRID=58T08MYAHSDGX3PAPAE7
Amazon “Maggi Granulated Beef Flavor Bouillon, 7.9 oz” (2017) Grocery. Amazon.com, 2017. Web. 30 August 2017. https://www.amazon.com/Maggi-Granulated-Beef-Flavor-Bouillon/dp/B003L8XCJO/ref=pd_sim_325_1?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B003L8XCJO&pd_rd_r=58T08MYAHSDGX3PAPAE7&pd_rd_w=00lhp&pd_rd_wg=RWX0t&psc=1&refRID=58T08MYAHSDGX3PAPAE7
Amazon “Maggi Granulated Chicken Flavor Bouillon, 15.9 oz” (2017) Grocery. Amazon.com, 2017. Web. 30 August 2017. https://www.amazon.com/Maggi-Granulated-Chicken-Flavor-Bouillon/dp/B0000KC2CY
Bardor, J.B. “Frightening Link Connecting MSG & Alzheimer’s – Prevention, Treatment and What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones” (2013) Health. 31 January 2013. Web. 30 August 2017. http://www.naturalnews.com/038899_MSG_Alzheimers_food_additives.html#
Be Food Smart “Disodium Isonate” (2012) Ingredients. 2012. Web. 30 August 2017. http://www.befoodsmart.com/ingredients/disodium-inosinate.php
Best Food Facts “TBHQ: What is it and is it dangerous?” (2016) Topics. 31 August 2016. Web. 30 August 2017. https://www.bestfoodfacts.org/tbhq-what-is-it-and-is-it-dangerous/
Botes, S. “TBHW – Why this Preservative Should be Avoided?” (2011) News. 14 February 2011. Web. 30 August 2017. http://www.naturalnews.com/031318_TBHQ_food_preservatives.html
Consultancy U.K. “50 Largest Consumer Goods/FMCG Firms of the Globe” (2017) News. Consultancy U.K., 17 August 2017. Web. 30 August 2017. http://www.consultancy.uk/news/2453/50-largest-consumer-goods-fmcg-firms-of-the-globe
Freeman, M. “Reconsidering the Effects of Monosodium Glutamate: A Literature Review” (2006) Library. 25 September 2006. Web. 30 August 2017. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-7599.2006.00160.x/full
Harvard Medical School “By the way, doctor: is pal oil good for you?” (2007) Harvard’s Women Health Watch. Harvard Health Publications, October 2007. Web. 30 August 2017. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/By_the_way_doctor_Is_palm_oil_good_for_you
Interbrand “Nestlé” (2015) No. 52 Nestlé. Interbrand, 2015. Web. 30 August 2017. http://interbrand.com/best-brands/best-global-brands/2015/ranking/nestle/
Kantar World Panel “Brand Footprint Annual Report: A Global Ranking of the Most Chosen Consumer Brands” (2017) Global Ranking Top 50. May 2017. Web. 30 August 2017. https://www.kantarworldpanel.com/brand-footprint-ranking/#/download
MSG Truth “What Exactly is MSG?” (2017) What Exactly is MSG? MSG Truth, 2017. Web. 30 August 2017. http://www.msgtruth.org/whatisit.htm
Nogrady, B. “Is MSG as Bad as it’s Made Out to Be?” (2015) Future. BBC, 10 November 2015. Web. 30 August 2017. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20151106-is-msg-as-bad-as-its-made-out-to-be
Teller, S.E. “Lawsuit Claims Nestlé ‘Spring Water’ Is Actually Contaminated Water” (2017) Lawsuits & Litigation. Legal Reader, 23 August 2017. http://www.legalreader.com/lawsuit-claims-nestle-spring-water-actually-contaminated-groundwater/
Zogheib, S. “What is Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil?” (2016) Eat Well. Leaf TV, 2016. Web. 30 August 2017. https://www.leaf.tv/articles/what-is-hydrogenated-palm-kernel-oil/
Zorthian, J. “Nestlé Pays Only $200.00 to Take 130 Million Gallons of Michigan’s Water” (2017) Retail. 1 January 2017. Web. 30 August 2017. http://fortune.com/2017/06/01/nestle-michigan-well-bottled-water/