Aussie shoppers kept in dark about their groceries

Campaigns and Advocacy, General, GROW, Media Releases, News article written on the 26 Feb 2013

Australians want answers from food and drink companies such as Nestlé and Coca Cola, with more than three quarters of shoppers claiming they are not given enough information about where products come from, according to a new Oxfam survey.

The survey coincides with today‟s launch of Oxfam‟s Behind the Brands report, which ranks the world‟s ten biggest food and drink companies on their social and environmental policies and how they conduct business in poor countries.

According to the survey, 84 per cent of Australians want more information on product packaging about how their food and drink is made and where it comes from, and more than half of all Australians don‟t trust the ten biggest food and drink companies.

Oxfam Australia‟s new Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the Behind the Brands report findings were compelling and revealed major brands including Coca Cola, Kellogg‟s and Mars were failing the millions of workers who produce our food and drink.

“Our report connects what we eat and drink every day with the experiences of the farmers and workers in poorer countries who produce our food, with the bitter irony being the majority of the world‟s hungriest people are those directly involved in making our food and drink,” Dr Szoke said.

“The findings revealed the world‟s ten most powerful food and drink companies that produce our most iconic brands like Kellogg‟s and Vegemite, are overly secretive about where products come from and how they‟re made. These companies need a major shake-up because across the board, they all fall short, with none emerging with an overall good score.”

According to the report, none of the big brands, that collectively make more than $1 billion a day, have publically committed to paying farmers a fair price or to eliminating discrimination against women involved in food production.

The report also highlighted that all the companies lacked adequate policies to protect communities from having their land and water taken without their consent.

“Almost half of Australians said they would stop buying their favourite brands if a company‟s policies and practices weren‟t up to scratch, and 60 per cent believe their shopping habits can make a difference in the lives of farmers and workers in poorer countries,” Dr Szoke said.

“This tells us that shoppers are recognising major brands have a vital role in tackling hunger and poverty by supporting the poor people with which they do business.”

Of the companies evaluated, Nestlé (Milo, Violet Crumble), was the highest performing, followed by Unilever (Liptons, Flora, Bushells), Coca Cola (Coke, Fanta), Pepsico (Pepsi, Smiths Chips, Doritos, Twisties), Mars (Mars Bars, Snickers, M&Ms) and Danone (Evian, Activa), Mondelez – formerly Kraft – (Vegemite, Toblerone, Cadbury) and General Mills (Latina Pasta, Old El Paso).

While Kellogg‟s was seen by Australians as the most ethical food company, they were, in fact, the second lowest in the rankings and one of the worst performing companies in terms of ethical policies, land rights and support for farmers and workers. Associated British Foods (Twinings, Ovaltine, Tip Top) came in last as the worst performing company.

Oxfam‟s Behind the Brands report was developed to improve the way major food and drink companies operate and to encourage Australian shoppers to urge the big brands to do the right thing by their farmers, suppliers and producers.

Copies of the report and scorecard, information about companies and tips for consumers on how they can make a difference are available at:

For more information, or arrange an interview with Dr Helen Szoke, please contact:

Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801 or

Rachael Nightingale on 0449 881 980 or

About Behind the Brands

Behind the Brands is a new Oxfam campaign to change the policies and practices of some of the world‟s biggest food and beverage companies, to help bring about a world where everyone always has enough to eat.

The Behind the Brands report evaluates the policies, public commitments and monitoring of all stages of food production of Associated British Foods (ABF), Coca Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg‟s, Mars, Mondelez (formerly Kraft), Nestlé, Pepsico and Unilever.

The campaign will work with the people who consume the brands made by the big ten companies, to put pressure on the companies to change.

The Behind the Brands campaign will launch in more than 12 countries including the US, Mexico, China, Brazil and across Europe.

Oxfam Australia is a leading international aid agency working with communities for solutions to poverty and social injustice.