Heinz Israel Still Marketing Humana's Remedia Products

Heinz Israel is still marketing Remedia products manufactured by Humana Germany despite the November crisis whereby a Vitamin B shortage in Remedia's soy-based milk substitute that is produced by the German firm caused the death of three Israeli infants and serious damage to others.

Heinz is marketing the milk substitute for children over the age of one, Super Formula Junior, which is produced by Humana, even though it announced in February that its milk substitute production had been transfered from Humana's plant in Germany to Heinz' plant in England.

"All Remedia's formulas were fully tested, for all the nutritional ingredients listed on the packages, in independent laboratories overseas," a Heinz Israel spokesman said. "The formulas are safe and suitable for feeding babies. The formula Super Formula Junior, which is sold today, was produced by Humana Germany before the crisis. It was fully tested in external laboratories and found in order. In November, Remedia stopped the contract with Humana and even returned a shipment of Junior that was in the port. The production was transfered immediately to the plant in England," he said.

"The process of producing and developing a new product and receiving import permits takes several months, and soon, the Junior product manufactured in the England plant will be sold as well. We noted explicitly in all the ads and addresses to the public that production was being transfered to the Heinz plant in England and so it was."

Heinz Israel announced in February a campaign to reinstate the consumers' trust in the Remedia brand name. Deputy marketing director Dalit Zur said the company introduced an innovative quality control check operated by Prof. Shmuel Edelstein.

Zur said the company would invest NIS 2 million in an advertising campaign explaining the change in its quality control to the public.

When the campaign was launched, the company intended to stick a "tested and approved" sticker signed by Edelstein on all of its products. But the Health Ministry, which had not approved the process, objected to that, and the Weizmann Institute forbade Edelstein to take advantage of his reputation as a former professor there.

Following the criticism, Remedia changed the sticker to "tested" and removed Edelstein's history at Weizmann from company ads.

However, Heinz Israel has not succeeded in improving Remedia's sales, according to the figures of StorNext, which monitors private market sales.

Remedia's campaign, which now includes radio ads as well, is still in its preliminary stages. StorNext's January figures show that Remedia had a 5.8 percent share of the milk substitute market. In February, the company's market share dropped to 4.4 percent, and in March it rose to 4.6 percent.

According to Heinz Israel, Remedia's market share before the crisis was 36 percent, valued at NIS 110 million per year, compared to NIS 40 million per year today.