Campaigners have said they are disappointed but unbowed after losing a vote to try to force concessions on HFSS products from food giant Nestlé.

An attempted rebellion led by campaign group ShareAction, which would have made Nestlé dramatically increase the ratio of healthy food it offers consumers, was defeated at the company’s AGM yesterday. Eleven per cent voted in favour and 88% against, while 1% abstained.

The coalition said that despite the result, the “direction of travel was clear”.

“While the vote we achieved today may be less than we wanted, investors and consumers are recognising the importance of addressing the business risks and public health impacts of an industry that is heavily reliant on the sales of unhealthy food,” said Simon Rawson, deputy chief executive of ShareAction.

“They have growing expectations not only from Nestlé but from all food manufacturers.

“Left unaddressed, the public health trends that spurred this resolution will only worsen. Consequently we expect investor support for such resolutions at food companies to increase.

“While the majority of shareholders did not support the resolution, we hope that it has encouraged them to think about the public health impacts of their investments.”

A Nestlé spokeswoman said: “While we share the common goal of increasing the availability of more nutritious foods for consumers around the world, we disagree with the idea of deliberately limiting growth in specific areas of our portfolio, as this would create opportunities for competitors without yielding public health benefits.

“ShareAction is targeting the wrong company and using figures that suit them. We now offer a diversified range of products: for example, 50% of our sales now come from coffee, petcare and Nestlé Health Science products. Ten years ago, this figure was 30%.

“We are moving. More would be accomplished by asking other food and beverage companies to do the same. What is needed are efforts to help move the whole industry towards greater transparency with targets to grow the sales of more nutritious foods.”