The pioneer years
Our history begins in 1866, when the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company opens the first European condensed milk factory in Switzerland. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.