February 13, 2018
By Dave Avran
CURRENTLY two videos alleging that one of our favourite beverages, Milo, contains excessive sugar have been spreading like wildfire on social media, leading to many Malaysians questioning the legitimacy of Milo’s “healthy” label.
The videos, uploaded by Mindvalley founder Vishen Lakhiani (a Malaysian), pointed out that the product’s packaging indicated there is 40g of sugar for every 100g of Milo.
He challenged the “healthy” label Nestle claims on its products.
Vishen’s first video was inspired by a New York Times article which highlighted alleged corporate partnerships between multinational processed food companies including Nestle, with Malaysian nutritionists and researchers who influence consumer spending habits. It said that major food companies have been financially supporting nutritionists.
The Swiss food giant swiftly responded, firstly on its social media channels and then by bombarding the press saying that the allegations were inaccurate.
Nestlé Malaysia explained that the recommended serving of Milo only contains six percent sugar.
Milo in its powder form contains milk, malt, cocoa, and sugar. The recommended preparation is to add five teaspoons of Milo into 200ml of hot water.
This one serving contains only 6 percent sugar. Out of the 6 percent, 3 percent is natural sugar from milk and malt, while the other 3 percent is added sugar. So the 40g of sugar shown on the nutritional label refers to Milo powder before water is added.
From a public relations damage control point of view, Nestle played a smart game as Malaysians shared their traditional news articles about Milo all over the internet, sparking a fierce online debate with those who had shared Vishen’s videos.
This is still ongoing as you read this and both sides have given press conferences.
Here’s a brief summary of the events leading up to the Milo controversy that’s gotten thousands of concerned Malaysians reconsidering their dietary choices.
- Malaysia was recently ranked the fattest country in Asia, with nearly half of Malaysians aged 18 and above (47.7 per cent) categorised as overweight or obese.
Some 30.3 per cent of Malaysians aged 18 and above suffer from high blood pressure, 47.7 per cent have high cholesterol levels and 17.5 per cent have diabetes.
These are all chronic lifestyle-related diseases, which are mainly attributed to our diet and physical activity.
- It is alleged that Nestlé paid the government thousands of dollars for the privilege to advise them on nutrition. As a result, many of their products get a red sticker from the health body of Malaysia, saying this product is a healthy choice.
- Vishen claims that big food companies are not incentivised to make us feel healthier. They’re incentivised to make us feel sick and keep us pumping our bodies with sugar because sugar makes us hungrier, so we buy more of their poisonous products, which is why he claims Nestle’s stock is continuously growing. He says Nestlé has successfully made Malaysia the world’s highest per capita consumer of Milo.
- Nestle countered by saying that they take their responsibility to produce great tasting, nutritious products very seriously. They also stated that Milo is made of milk, malt (barley), cocoa powder and contains vitamins and minerals including vitamins B2, B3, B6 and C, implying that the drink is indeed healthy for daily consumption.
And so the war of words continues to this day with Malaysians from all walks of life taking up positions on either side. For me personally as a keen social media observer, it’s pure marketing genius.
Vishen Lakhiani is CEO of Mind Valley which promotes and sells several new age lifestyle and fitness courses, including a healthy diet plan called Wildfit.
Not taking anything away from him, but whichever way you want to look at it, he has successfully leveraged himself and his company into our daily consciousness with the release of two videos which cost him some time and practically next to nothing to film.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear a nice hot mug of Milo calling me from the office pantry. Wishing The Mole’s Chinese readers a very prosperous and healthy year of the dog, and happy holidays to the rest.