Nestle Apologizes After Gift CD Angers Baku

Swiss-based food company Nestle has apologized to Azerbaijan after computer discs it handed out free with packets of breakfast products angered the country by accusing it of provoking war with Armenia.

Azerbaijan made an official protest after discs aimed at children across Russia stated that it had provoked a war with Armenia over the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Nestle has halted distribution of the CDs.

"It's a complete disaster as a statement," said Andrei Bader, Nestle's corporate affairs director for Russia. "First it is incorrect, there are many views. It is also absolutely not the right place for it, it is a catastrophe."

The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between Azeri and Armenian forces claimed an estimated 35,000 lives, and despite a cease-fire in 1994 the issue remains highly sensitive in both countries.

Azerbaijan wrote to Nestle's headquarters in Switzerland to complain about the disc. "We have sent an official letter expressing discontent, and Nestle offered apologies and withdrew all the CDs which had been distributed," an Azeri Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

He noted that the discs were not distributed in Azerbaijan itself.

The CDs were distributed across Russia from April 10 to April 30 with two breakfast products — Kosmostars and Nesquik — and contained nuggets of data about different countries.

The content for the disc was prepared by an outside company, and although the same details had been distributed since 1996, this was the first time it was noticed, Bader said.

Bader could not estimate the cost to Nestle, but said the decision to halt distribution was made after consultation with its Swiss headquarters hours after the problem came to light.

"Nestle took time to officially apologize with its consumers," Bader said. "With a recorded speech on Azeri TV, we brought this in a very loud way to consumers."