Ukrainian supporters protest outside of Nespresso in SoHo

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Protesters gather outside of Nespresso on April 3.
Photo by Dean Moses

Steaming New Yorkers gathered outside Nespresso Sunday to rail against food and caffeine giant Nestlé, alleging that they’re still brewing up business in Russia amid the invasion of Ukraine.

Protesters draped in Ukrainian colors flocked outside 92 Prince St. on April 3 to decry what they see as war profiteering. Holding signs that lambasted the company, the group attempted to convince potential customers to not enter the storefront.

On March 23, Nestlé announced their suspension of non-essential exports in and out of Russia, as well as halting advertising and capital investment in the country. On their website, they emphasize that they “are fully complying with all international sanctions on Russia. While we do not expect to make a profit in the country or pay any related taxes for the foreseeable future in Russia, any profit will be donated to humanitarian relief organizations.”

Ukrainian supporters call for sanctions in Russia. Photo by Dean Moses

In addition, the company adds that they have contributed food supplies and financial assistance in support in Ukraine and refugees who have fled to neighboring countries. 

However, Nestlé also states on their site that they are not seeking to make a profit, but their main focus in Russia will continue to be providing essential food, such as infant food and medical/hospital nutrition. Protesters like Pierre Hugot, believe that by doing so they are still doing business with the country despite the sanctions, calling this suspension a “half-baked change” when there are people still dying in Ukraine. 

“Nestlé carries on doing business in Russia. They put up a window dressing withdrawal, but that’s not what Ukraine is asking for. The Ukraine President [Voldomyr Zelinsky] last week explained that total withdrawal of business from Russia is what we need. That is what sanctions are about. That is what embargoes are about. Ulf Mark Schneider, the CEO, is refusing to withdraw from Russia completely,” Hugot said. 

Protesters call the war in Ukraine genocide. Photo by Dean Moses

Hugot’s stance against Russia is personal since his wife is Ukrainian, and many of her family members are suffering in the war-torn country. He says that protesters are not going to stop putting pressure on companies like Nestlé who refuse to fully remove their business and halt ties from Russia.

Hugot thinks that the pressure of sanctions will not just hurt the Russian economy but become a realization for those in Russia who are supportive of the war in Ukraine. He also shared that he is from South Africa, and strongly believes that the apartheid was abolished due to harsh sanctions. 

“There are companies who have withdrawn and have shown their allegiance and understand that what Russia is doing is genocide. You don’t carry on doing business in a country that’s committing genocide. It’s crazy, just stop it. Withdraw baby’s milk from Russia. The issue is not KitKat, it’s baby’s milk, basic really important products that can make a difference in Russia. It’s when Russian people understand that there is something wrong with their government that’s the way you get around this information by putting together real sanctions that affect people,” Hugot said. 

“It is just useless that a country, a great country like Russia, I’m saying great country like Russia has to suffer this idiotic action by the government,” Hugot added. 

In response to this protest, a Nespresso spokesperson told amNewYork Metro in a statement: 

“Nespresso is deeply saddened by the war in Ukraine and joins the international community in calling for peace. Our immediate actions have been to support the personal safety and security of our co-workers and their families in Ukraine. Nespresso has suspended all our imports into Russia. Therefore, we have temporarily suspended the commercial operations of our boutiques, our app and our website in the country.”