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The Company father and founder


Henri Nestlé – the man behind the international enterprise and one of the strongest and most renown brand names on a global level.

Oils, bone meal fertiliser, vinegar, liqueurs, white lead, mustard, mineral water, lemonade, liquid gas, cement – these were just some of the products being developed and sold by Henri Nestlé (1814–90) in Vevey. The skilled pharmacologist was continuously looking for new sources of revenue with ground-breaking goods for an urban society on the tip of modernism. He worked unremittingly and was not afraid to take risks.

Heinrich Nestle, as he was originally called, was born in Frankfurt am Main, where he went on to train as a pharmacist.

Not much information is available about his activities in the years after completing his traineeship in 1834, but it is supposed that he spent some time working overseas as a journeyman. It is known that five years later he qualified as a pharmacologist's assistant in Lausanne and took up his first position in Vevey as a pharmacist. He later set up his own business in 1843.

Having rapidly learnt French, he altered his name to the language of his adopted home: Heinrich Nestle thus became Henri Nestlé. Nestlé's discovery was a late and unexpected development when he was already 53. Forever seeking the next big thing, he came across the problems still unanswered in the feeding of babies. Infant death was very high at the time, and it was thought that a healthy, high-grade alternate to breast milk would save innumerable babies' lives. Nestlé studied existing chemical analyses of breast milk and conducted numerous experiments in his lab with milk, bread and sugar. He condensed, vacuum-dried and crushed the various ingredients until he created just the precise formula. His 'children's flour' came on the market in 1867, and kept on growing since then.

Take a look at the slideshow

A portrait of Henri Nestlé (1867)
A portrait of Henri Nestlé (1867)
Henri Nestlé began as a pharmacist’s assistant but when he sold the company which bore his name at the age of 60 it was already an international success selling his famous milk-based baby food – Farine Lactée - across five continents.
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The Nestlé trademark in 1868
The Nestlé trademark in 1868
Henri Nestlé recognized the importance of branding from the very beginning. His logo, featuring small birds being fed in a nest on an oak branch, was based on his family’s crest. Although it has been updated over the years, it remains the recognisable and distinctive logo of Nestlé today.
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Vevey in 1870
Vevey in 1870
Henri Nestlé began his business in the small Swiss lakeside town of Vevey, using milk from the local area. Vevey is still where the global headquarters of Nestlé remains today.
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Vevey’s Pharmacie Centrale
Vevey’s Pharmacie Centrale
Henri Nestlé initially worked as a pharmacist’s assistant in Vevey between 1839 and 1843. His training in chemistry and his scientific background shaped his attitude and his future approach to business. An entrepreneur and constant innovator, he experimented with the production of everything from lemonade to cement before inventing the Farine Lactée formula that would spell his fortune.
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The dairy in Vevey (1890)
The dairy in Vevey (1890)
Originally, Henri Nestlé bought the milk needed for his baby food each morning but by the summer of 1869, two years after launching the Farine Lactée this was no longer practical, so he decided to buy his supplies from a milk collection centre in a small village near Vevey, from where it was delivered to the factory.
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Advert for Nestlé’s children’s milk
Advert for Nestlé’s children’s milk
Although he was originally German, Henri Nestlé - and his successors - used the reputation for Switzerland’s high quality milk as part of the product’s marketing strategy from the beginning. Nestlé remains one of the world’s largest purchasers of milk, as well as commodities like cocoa and coffee.
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Supporting infant nutrition
Supporting infant nutrition
Henri Nestlé also realised that in order to change perceptions about his brand new product he had to convince the scientific community of its merits so he produced a series of pamphlets, distributed to doctors and pharmacists, which explained the merits of his product.
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An advert from 1897
An advert from 1897
His understanding of the importance of creating a brand was echoed in advertising campaigns of those who took over the company after he sold it, creating adverts that remain beautiful as well as functional.
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An advert from 1900
An advert from 1900
By 1875, Nestlé’s products were sold everywhere from Indonesia to Egypt, and from the US to Argentina. This global ambition to make products for consumers the world over has continued.
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