1866-1905


The pioneer years


Our history begins in 1866, with the foundation of the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company. Henri Nestlé develops a breakthrough infant food in 1867, and in 1905 the company he founded merges with Anglo-Swiss, to form what is now known as the Nestlé Group. During this period cities grow and railways and steamships bring down commodity costs, spurring international trade in consumer goods.

Highlights


1866

condensed milk advertising, Milkmaid brand, Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company

US brothers Charles and George Page help establish Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company. Using abundant supplies of fresh milk in Switzerland, they apply knowledge gained in their homeland to establish Europe’s first production facility for condensed milk in Cham. They start supplying Europe’s industrial towns with the product under the Milkmaid brand, marketing it as a safe, long-life alternative to fresh milk.


1867

Henri Nestlé's 'farine lactée'

Nestlé’s founder, German-born pharmacist Henri Nestlé, launches his ‘farine lactée’ (‘flour with milk’) in Vevey, Switzerland. It combines cow’s milk, wheat flour and sugar, and Nestlé develops it for consumption by infants who cannot be breastfed, to tackle high mortality rates. Around this time he starts using the now iconic ‘Nest’ logo.


1875

agreement signed by Henri Nestlé'

Henri Nestlé sells his company and factory in Vevey to three local businessmen. They employ chemists and skilled workers to help expand production and sales.


1878

advertising by Anglo-Swiss and Nestlé'

Fierce competition develops between Nestlé and Anglo-Swiss, when both companies start selling rival versions of the other’s original products: condensed milk and infant cereal. Both firms expand sales and production abroad.


1882-1902

milk arrival in Cham, Switzerland'

In 1882 Anglo-Swiss expands into the US, but the death of George Page frustrates its plans. In 1902 it sells its US-based operations, which paves the way for an eventual merger with Nestlé.


1904

employees working in a Swiss chocolate factory

Nestlé begins selling chocolate for the first time when it takes over export sales for Peter & Kohler. Henri Nestlé himself plays a key role in the development of milk chocolate from 1875, when he supplies his Vevey neighbour Daniel Peter with condensed milk, which Peter uses to develop the first such commercial product in the 1880s.

The key factor which drove the early history of the enterprise that would become the Nestlé Company was Henri Nestlé's search for a healthy, economical alternative to breastfeeding for mothers who could not feed their infants at the breast.

In the mid-1860s Nestlé, a trained pharmacist, began experimenting with various combinations of cow's milk, wheat flour and sugar in an attempt to develop an alternative source of infant nutrition for mothers who were unable to breast feed. His ultimate goal was to help combat the problem of infant mortality due to malnutrition.

He called the new product Farine Lactee Henri Nestlé. Nestlé's first customer was a premature infant who could tolerate neither his mother's milk nor any of the conventional substitutes, and had been given up for lost by local physicians. People quickly recognized the value of the new product, after Nestlé's new formula saved the child's life and within a few years, Farine Lactee Nestlé was being marketed in much of Europe.

Henri Nestlé also showed early understanding of the power of branding. He had adopted his own coat of arms as a trademark; in his German dialect, Nestlé means 'little nest'. One of his agents suggested that the nest could be exchanged for the white cross of the Swiss flag. His response was firm: "I regret that I cannot allow you to change my nest for a Swiss cross .... I cannot have a different trademark in every country; anyone can make use of a cross, but no-one else may use my coat of arms."

Meanwhile, the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company, founded in 1866 by Americans Charles and George Page, broadened its product line in the mid-1870s to include cheese and infant formulas.The Nestlé Company, which had been purchased from Henri Nestlé by Jules Monnerat in 1874, responded by launching a condensed milk product of its own. The two companies remained fierce competitors until their merger in 1905.

Some other important firsts occurred during those years. In 1875 Vevey resident Daniel Peter figured out how to combine milk and cocoa powder to create milk chocolate. Peter, a friend and neighbor of Henri Nestlé, started a company that quickly became the world's leading maker of chocolate and later merged with Nestlé. In 1882 Swiss miller Julius Maggi created a food product utilizing legumes that was quick to prepare and easy to digest.

His instant pea and bean soups helped launch Maggi & Company. By the turn of the century, his company was producing not only powdered soups, but also bouillon cubes, and sauces and flavorings.