Commentary on Ankerkraut and Nestlé: Soul and conviction sold for money?

Viewed from the outside, they could hardly be more different. There is Ankerkraut, the start-up that the whole of Germany was able to watch growing after its participation in the TV show “Die Höhle der Löwen”. Ankerkraut wanted to revolutionize the spice market, which until then consisted mainly of literally dusty plastic cup batteries in the supermarket. High-quality and sustainably grown ingredients, which are fully declared on the labels of the recyclable glasses including the cork from the remains of wine production, come from a transparent supply chain and are increasingly being grown organically without genetic engineering, synthetic pesticides or palm oil.

On the other hand, the large, global food company that stumbles from one scandal to the next. The allegations against Nestlé range from the exploitation of workers in economically weak countries to the destruction of rainforests, animal experiments, illegal price fixing and the water business, which critics say is leading to falling groundwater levels. Accusations that weigh heavily and make the narrative of a company cast in the form of a logo, like a mother bird providing food for her chicks, almost ironic.

Real goal: IPO

How do the authentic, sustainable start-up and the large, capitalist global corporation fit together? In any case, they don’t do it when it comes to values, sustainability and conviction. As companies, however, both use the free market to sell their products and earn money with them. Correspondingly, Ankerkraut cannot be free from the basic market-economy idea. In the summer of 2020, the start-up sold 20 percent of the company shares to the investor EMZ. Stefan and Anne Lemcke’s shares fell to 51 percent. At that time Stefan Lemcke said that a company would be better if many people could have a say – his goal was the IPO. And isn’t that also essentially the goal of founders? Building a brand and earning money with it in the long term? This can happen through slow, organic growth – or you can simply sell to the largest food company in the world.

So the sale is by no means surprising, even if one has to ask the question why of all things Nestlé? In any case, the group itself is trying to be greener, because that goes down well with consumers: Maggi has a line with organic ingredients or products made from crooked vegetables that probably wouldn’t have been sold in the supermarket; vegan and vegetarian alternatives. On the other hand, Nestlé also sells high-priced coffee made from aluminum capsules, which are said to be recyclable if disposed of properly, but may end up in household waste. This has little to do with sustainability – and actually that should have been a red line for Ankerkraut.

Hatred and insults from the net

The shitstorm that Nestlé is probably used to and that might be new to Ankerkraut came promptly: influencers announced on social networks that they were terminating their collaboration with Ankerkraut. Countless users expressed their anger and disappointment that the Ankerkraut founders had sold their souls for money. The two founders told the dpa on Wednesday that the criticism did not go past them or the employees, but that they definitely did not accept hatred and insults.

Calls for a boycott followed online, as was the case with the momentous takeover of organic lemonade manufacturer Bionade by the food company Dr. Oetker or the takeover of natural cosmetics manufacturer Logocos by conventional cosmetics manufacturer L’Oréal – in which Nestlé incidentally holds almost 30 percent.

How long consumers really stick to the boycott remains to be seen. Anyone who now wants to switch to Ankerkraut’s direct competitor, Just Spices, should remember that just last year the US food company Kraft Heinz took over 85 percent of the shares in the Düsseldorf start-up. The company, like Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Danone, Mars, Johnson & Johnson and many others, faces similar criticism as Nestlé.

A large proportion of the products in the supermarket come from these and other large companies. If you want to boycott Ankerkraut, you have good reason to do so – but you should check whether your own shopping trolley is also doing justice to your own moral finger.

Source: Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger – Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger by

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