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19/01/2017

Nestlé: a century and a half-long reign

  • The year of its 150th anniversary, the Swiss company remains the largest food group in the world
  • It opened its first factory in Spain, which produced powdered milk, in 1905

Manel González. Journalist

Nestlé, the world's largest food company, celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2016, with operations in 197 countries and a staff of almost 340,000 people. One billion servings of Nestlé products are consumed each day across the world. Its logo, the famous nest, is part of our popular imagery, representing an extremely broad range of products which currently includes everything from baby food and dairy items to chocolate, coffee and cereal-based drinks, culinary products, breakfast cereals, frozen foods, mineral water and clinical nutrition products. It also has a notable presence in the pet food and pet care segment.

Five years ago, the company created Nestlé Health Science to develop special products that improve the health of people with specific dietary needs and promote healthy ageing. The company addresses challenges such as malnutrition, growth, ageing of the population and obesity through its commitment to innovation and passion for nutrition, about which it is extremely proud. Nestlé is wholeheartedly committed to improving products' nutritional profile by reducing salt, sugar and saturated fats and adding vitamins, minerals, vegetables and whole grains. That commitment is visible today in the corporate social responsibility model it has chosen —Shared Value Creation— an approach that aligns perfectly with the values instilled by the company's founder, Henri Nestlé, in 1886.

Henry Nestlé and powdered milk

Born in Frankfurt (Germany) in 1814, Henri Nestlé moved to the small Swiss town of Vevey when he was 29. There he worked as a trader, and evidenced his curiosity and interest in research. Concerned about the extremely high infant mortality rate (one in every five Swiss babies dies prematurely), he dedicated himself to creating a food for babies that were unable to breastfeed. After several tests, in 1866, when he was 52, he created a formula made from milk, sugar and wheat flour, which he first called "children's flour", and later called "milk flour" (or powdered milk).

His product quickly became a success, and formed the foundation on which his company was built.

Years later, in 1905, Nestlé, which had been sold to three local businessmen who maintained its original philosophy, merged with Anglo Swiss Condensed Milk Company, which launched Europe's first condensed milk, giving rise to the Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss Milk Company. Nestlé provided the new company with nine factories—four in Switzerland and five in other countries—including the recently-inaugurated factory in La Penilla de Cayón, in Spain.

Nestlé in Spain

In 2015, Nestlé's revenues in Spain amounted to 2.166 billion euros, up 4.5% in year-on-year terms.

Last year the company exported 611 million euros worth of goods, up 8.9% compared with the previous year. The bulk—73%—of exports were focused on ten countries: France, the UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Poland, the UAE and Brazil. About 44% of total production in Spain is exported.

It all began 111 years ago, when Nestlé decided that the Cantabrian tradition of raising dairy cattle, together with the existence of strategic travel options, both by sea and by land, made it the perfect region for its first factory in Spain. Nestlé chose La Penilla de Cayón (Cantabria) for its first factory, which produced the first bottle of powdered milk in Spain.

There followed other products, such as La Lechera condensed milk (1910), Nestlé chocolates (1929), Pelargón powdered milk (1944) and Nescafé instant coffee (1954), which also became part of Spain's food history.

In the 1960s, Maggi products were launched, along with ice cream and Nescafé decaf instant coffee (the result of research by Nestlé), and refrigerated products. In 1966, the company revealed a line of special products and formats, specifically for the hospitality segment and related groups.

In the 1970s, Nestlé included frozen and refrigerated products in its already extensive offer. And in the 1980s, we got breakfast cereal, Solís tomato sauce, Litoral canned products and Friskies pet food, which merged with the global brand Purina in 2009. At the end of the decade, it added Buitoni fresh pastas and sauces, and KitKat.

In 1992, Nestlé entered the bottled water market, with local brands like Viladrau, as well as more global brands, and at the end of the 1990s we got Nespresso, coffee pods which quickly became a popular product among Spanish consumers.

In 2000, Nestlé expanded even further with a selection of products for people with specific nutritional needs, making it a leading food company in the broadest sense of the word. Since then, not only does it offer specific products for all kinds of consumption, but also for every stage of life.

In 2007, it launched the most innovative product of the last decade: Nescafé Dolce Gusto, a new beverage system using single-serve capsules that revolutionized the market, letting people “bring the coffee shop” into their home and creating a new category at points-of-sale.

At present, Nestlé Spain has a staff of over 5,350. The company has 10 factories in five regions of Spain and is a leader in the "native" food market. Indubitably, it's been a very successful 150 years.

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