Henri (Heinrich) Nestlé (1814–90)

Henri Nestle was born in 1814 in Frankfurt-am-Main, then a free city, was apprenticed as a pharmacist, and practised his profession after fleeing riots in 1833 to settle in Vevey on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. He had an enquiring mind and carried out research in such subjects as gas lighting and fertilisers.

In the mid-1860s he began to produce ‘farine lactee’, a baby food that combined milk with wheat flour from which acid and starch had been removed. He established sales offices in Great Britain, France and Germany in 1868, and in the United States the following year. He sold his company in 1874 to a consortium headed by Jules Monnerat, and subsequently lived in retirement in Vevey.

The Nestle company introduced factory-based production of various kinds of food in many countries, purchasing the Viking Melk (milk) company in Norway in 1898, and the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Co., established by the Americans Charles and George Page at Cham, which had several factories in Great Britain, in 1905. By 1914 the company also had factories in Germany, Spain and the United States. Nestle was producing chocolate at its principal factory in England, at Hayes, from 1913, and in 1929 took over the Swiss company, Peter, Cailler & Kohler, one of whose founders, Daniel Peter (1836-1919), had pioneered the production of milk chocolate, using Nestle’s condensed milk, at Vevey in 1875.

Nestle developed a process for making instant coffee introduced in 1938, and in 1947 took over another pioneering Swiss food company, the soup and stock cube enterprise established by Julius Maggi (1846-1912). Henri Nestle’s initials appear on the wall of a factory the company established at Tutbury, England, in 1901, which was at first a condensed milk plant, and since 1956-57 has produced instant coffee.

His work and the history of the company he founded is depicted in the Alimentarium at Vevey.