Nestlé Worldwide History

1866-1905

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 (1814 - 1890)

     

1905-1918

In 1905 Nestlé merged with the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company. By the early 1900s, the company was operating factories in the United States, Britain, Germany and Spain. World War I created new demand for dairy products in the form of government contracts. By the end of the war, Nestlé's production had more than doubled.

1918-1938

After the war Government contracts dried up and consumers switched back to fresh milk. However, Nestlé's management responded quickly, streamlining operations and reducing debt. The 1920s saw Nestlé's first expansion into new products, with chocolate the Company's second most important activity
           

1938-1944

Nestlé felt the effects of World War II immediately. Profits dropped from $20 million in 1938 to $6 million in 1939. Factories were established in developing countries, particularly Latin America. Ironically, the war helped with the introduction of the Company's newest product, Nescafé, which was a staple drink of the US military. Nestlé's production and sales rose in the wartime economy.

1944-1975

The end of World War II was the beginning of a dynamic phase for Nestlé. Growth accelerated and companies were acquired. In 1947 came the merger with Maggi seasonings and soups. Crosse & Blackwell followed in 1960, as did Findus (1963), Libby's (1971) and Stouffer's (1973). Diversification came with a shareholding in L'Oréal in 1974.

1975-1981

Nestlé's growth in the developing world partially offset a slowdown in the Company's traditional markets. Nestlé made its second venture outside the food industry by acquiring Alcon Laboratories Inc.

1981-1995

Nestlé divested a number of businesses1980 / 1984. In 1984, Nestlé's improved bottom line allowed the Company to launch a new round of acquisitions, the most important being American food giant Carnation.

1996-2002

The first half of the 1990s proved to be favorable for Nestlé: trade barriers crumbled and world markets developed into more or less integrated trading areas. Since 1996 there have been acquisitions including San Pellegrino (1997), Spillers Petfoods (1998) and Ralston Purina (2002). There were two major acquisitions in North America, both in 2002: in July, Nestlé merged its U.S. ice cream business into Dreyer's, and in August, a USD 2.6bn acquisition was announced of Chef America, Inc.

2003 +

The year 2003 started well with the acquisition of Mövenpick Ice Cream, enhancing Nestlé's position as one of the world market leaders in this product category.  In 2006, Jenny Craig and Uncle Toby's were added to the Nestlé portfolio and 2007 saw Novartis Medical Nutrition, Gerber and Henniez join the Company.