Led by a sense of scientific innovation, Henri Nestlé kickstarted a small food business in 1867. 150 years later that business is the world’s largest food and beverage company. And Henri’s legacy continues to shape the business today.
Henri Nestlé started as a pharmacist’s apprentice. In the late 1860s, troubled by the high infant death rate, he used his scientific knowledge to create an infant formula.
By the time he was 60, the Nestlé company was an international success. And his milk-based baby food, Farine Lactée, was being sold across five continents.
Henri Nestlé's wife Clémentine played an important role in the development of the infant cereal business.
As the daughter of a charity doctor, she recognized the potential of the new invention. Her great personal commitment and dedication helped expand the family business far beyond the borders of Switzerland.
Gifted with a strong instinct for marketing, Henri Nestlé recognized the importance of branding from the very beginning. His logo, which features baby birds being fed in a nest, was based on his family’s crest.
That initial image has been updated over the years. Yet it still remains the recognizable and distinctive logo of Nestlé today.
Henri Nestlé began his business in the small Swiss lakeside town of Vevey. There was an abundance of fresh milk in the local area, which he used to start creating his infant cereal.
A lot has changed since 1870. But Vevey is still home to Nestlé’s global headquarters today.
Henri Nestlé’ was a pharmacist’s assistant in Vevey between 1839 and 1843. His training in chemistry shaped his attitude and his future approach to business.
As a constant innovator, he experimented with the production of everything from lemonade to cement, before focusing on infant cereal. In the late 1860s he invented Farine Lactée, a product that would change his fortune and the world.
In the early days of production, Henri Nestlé bought the milk he needed each morning. Yet by the summer of 1869, two years after launching the Farine Lactée, this was no longer practical. He decided to buy his supplies from a milk collection center in a small village near Vevey. It was delivered by horse and cart direct to his factory.
Although he was originally from Germany, Henri Nestlé - and his successors - used Switzerland’s milk as the basis of their products. Known for its high quality, the milk became a big feature in the product’s marketing. Today, Nestlé remains one of the world’s largest purchasers of milk, as well as other natural products like cocoa and coffee.
In the late 1860s, Henri Nestlé produced a series of detailed pamphlets explaining the science behind his product, which he distributed to doctors and pharmacists. These pamphlets outlined that breastfeeding should always be the natural choice, however infant cereal was an option if needed.
Henri Nestlé understood the importance of creating a brand. From the outset, he invested time in developing his marketing. This influence still echoed in Nestlé’s brand campaigns after Henri sold his business. The advertisements at the turn of the 20th century were beautiful as well as functional.
In 1875, Henri Nestlé sold his company to three local entrepreneurs and lived with his family in Glion and Montreux. Now a rich man, he helped people out with loans and championed efforts to improve the local infrastructure.
On Monday 7th July, 1890, Henri Nestlé died at home after a short illness. 130 years later, the small company he founded is the global business we know today.