In this article we’re going to briefly review the history of one of the largest manufacturers of chocolate in the world, Nestlé.
It was in the 1860s that Henri Nestlé, a pharmacist, developed a food specifically for babies who could not breast feed. He first used this successfully on a premature infant who couldn’t tolerate his mother’s breast milk. This product saved the child’s life and people soon began to see the value of it. Soon, Farine Lactée Henri Nestlé was being sold all over Europe.
In 1905 Nestlé merged with a condensed milk company. By the early 1900s they had factories in the United States, Britain, Germany and Spain. With the outbreak of World War I, there was a great demand for these products. By the end of the war Nestlé’s production more than doubled.
Unfortunately, after the war, contracts dried up and the buying public went back to getting fresh milk. In response to this, Nestlé streamlined their operation and reduced their debt. By the 1920s the company had expanded its operation with chocolate being its number two selling product.
Then World War II broke out and Nestlé immediately felt the effects. Their profits dropped from $20 million a year before 1938 to under $6 million a year by 1939. In spite of this, Nestlé began setting up factories in developing countries expecting a turn around by the war’s end. Ironically, the war was responsible for Nestlé introducing one of its most popular products, Nescafé instant coffee, which was the number one drink of the United States military.
The end of World War II, just as Nestlé predicted, was the beginning of a great phase of growth for the company. Nestlé acquired many other companies during this time. In 1947 they merged with Maggi, Crosse & Blackwell in 1960, Libbys in 1971 and Stouffers in 1973.
By the mid 1970s, Nestlé’s growth in the developing world offset their slowdown in the more developed countries like the United States. By the mid 1980s they had acquired several additional companies, the biggest of which was the American company, Carnation.
After the mid 1990s, because of the breakdown of trade barriers, Nestlé enjoyed what was probably their biggest growth in history. Their acquisitions included the giant company Ralston Purina, which mainly sells pet food.
In spite of Nestlé’s diversification, they are and will always be mostly known for their ever popular chocolate bars and drinks such as Nestlé’s Crunch Bar, which is now also made into an ice cream bar, Nestlé’s Quick, which is a chocolate flavored powder to put in milk, Nestlé’s Carnation, another popular chocolate drink, the Kit Kat Bar, Smarties, Nestlé’s Maxibon, Nestlé’s Extreme and a host of other products, a list that would take days to go through.
In closing, it should be pointed out that a lot of Nestlé’s success was a stroke of good luck. It seems that a man named Daniel Peter figured out exactly how to combine milk and cocoa powder. The result was milk chocolate. Well, Peter just happened to be a good friend of Henri Nestlé. Peter started the company, but ultimately Nestlé took it over as was destined to happen.