LAUSANNE, Switzerland, July 15 (Reuters) - Nespresso sought to polish its green credentials, pledging to buy more coffee from sustainable plantations in Africa and tapping into customers' consciences in an increasingly competitive coffee pod market.
Nespresso has been food group Nestle's fastest growing brand but has come under pressure from rivals seeking a slice of its stellar profits with cheaper imitations.
It said on Monday a panel including movie star George Clooney and experts from Fairtrade International and the Rainforest Alliance would advise on how to boost sustainability.
The measures include a plan to revive high-quality coffee production in South Sudan as well as programmes with Fairtrade International in Colombia to provide health insurance and retirement planning to farmers.
"This is a great big company working very hard to help people at the bottom of the chain," Clooney, who has been the brand's front man for advertising since 2006, told a media briefing in Lausanne.
"It's done because they have their heart in the right place, but it's also done because it's good business," said Clooney, a Sudan activist who has visited the country several times.
Growth at Nespresso, which sells coffee machines and single-use coffee capsules, has slowed recently from the over 20 percent rates seen in past years as more copycat systems come to market.
The biggest challenge is expected to be the launch of Nespresso-compatible pods by U.S. firm Mondelez, the world's second-biggest coffee maker behind Nestle, later this year.
Nespresso CEO Jean-Marc Duvoisin declined to comment on whether the brand will reach its target of adding half a billion francs to Nespresso sales in 2013.
Nestle has sued rivals including D.E. Master Blenders , Ethical Coffee Co and Swiss supermarket chains Migros and Denner, but so far it has failed to obtain a definite sales ban on their products.