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Nestlé global highlights

The pioneer years

Our history begins in 1866, with the foundation of the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company. 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.




condensed milk advertising, Milkmaid brand, Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company

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.


Henri Nestlé's 'farine lactée'

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.


agreement signed by Henri Nestlé'

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.


advertising by Anglo-Swiss and Nestlé'

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.


milk arrival in Cham, Switzerland'

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.


employees working in a Swiss chocolate factory

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.

The Belle Époque

In 1905, Nestlé & Anglo Swiss has more than 20 factories, and starts using overseas subsidiaries to establish a sales network that spans Africa, Asia, Latin America and Australia. As World War One approaches, the firm benefits from the period of prosperity known as the Belle Époque or ‘Beautiful Age’, and becomes a global dairy company.




Nestlé Anglo-Swiss sales building in London, United Kingdom 

Anglo-Swiss and Nestlé merge to form the Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss Milk Company. The company has two head offices, in Vevey and Cham, and opens a third office in London to drive dairy export sales. Over several years the company expands its range to include unsweetened condensed milk and sterilised milk.




Nestlé starts trading in Sri Lanka with Milkmaid condensed milk and Lactogen infant food products.
Survival during wartime

The outbreak of war in 1914 leads to increased demand for condensed milk and chocolate, but a shortage of raw materials and limits on cross-border trade hamper production for Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss. To solve this problem, the company acquires processing facilities in the US and Australia, and by the end of the war it has 40 factories.




world map indicating supply and distribution channels during World War I

War breaks out across Europe and disrupts production for the company, but hostilities also drive demand for Nestlé dairy products, in the form of large government contracts.


Nestlé advertising on a soldiers canteen

Condensed milk is long-lasting and easy to transport, which makes it popular with armed forces. For example, in 1915 the British Army starts issuing Nestlé canned milk to soldiers in their emergency rations. Strong demand for the product means that the company’s milk refineries are working flat out.


Molico advertising

Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss acquires Norwegian dairy company Egron, which has patented a spray-drying process for producing milk powder – a product its new owner starts selling.



Milk shortages in Switzerland mean that Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss has to surrender fresh milk supplies to help people in towns and cities. To meet demand for condensed milk from the warring nations, the company buys US refineries and signs supply agreements with Australian companies, which it later acquires.

Crisis and opportunity

After the war military demand for canned milk declines, causing a major crisis for Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss in 1921. The company recovers, but is rocked again by the Wall Street Crash in 1929, which reduces consumer purchasing power. However, the era carries many positives: the company’s management corps is professionalised, research is centralised and pioneering products such as Nescafé coffee are launched.




Nestlé laboratory in Vevey, Switzerland

Falling prices and high stock levels lead to the first, and only ever, financial loss for Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss in 1921. Banker Louis Dapples joins as Crisis Manager, and encourages the company to appoint professional managers for the first time. Administration is centralised, and research is consolidated at one laboratory in Vevey, Switzerland.


advertising by chocolate company Peter-Cailler-Kohler

The company buys Switzerland’s largest chocolate company Peter-Cailler-Kohler, the origins of which date back to 1819 when François Louis Cailler creates one of the country’s first chocolate brands Cailler. Chocolate now becomes an integral part of the Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss business.


Milo poster

Malted chocolate drink Milo is launched in Australia, and its success means it is later exported for sale in other markets. The company continues to develop baby and infant foods in this inter-war period, and launches Pelargon in 1934, a full-milk powder for babies enriched with lactic acid bacteria, to improve its digestibility.


chocolate advertising posters

A competitive market for chocolate in Switzerland encourages Nestlé-Peter-Cailler-Kohler to innovate by launching Galak white chocolate and Rayon, a chocolate with honey and air bubbles, the next year. Vitamins are a major selling point for healthy products in the 1930s, and Nestlé launches vitamin supplement Nestrovit in 1936.



Nescafé is launched as a ‘powdered extract of pure coffee’ that retains coffee’s natural flavour, but can be prepared by simply adding hot water. The product is the brainchild of Max Morgenthaler, who begins work on it in 1929, when the Brazilian government asks Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss to find an outlet for its huge coffee surplus.

Riding out the storm

The outbreak of World War Two in 1939 affects virtually every market, but Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss continues to operate in difficult circumstances, supplying both civilians and armed forces. In 1947, the company adds Maggi soups and seasonings to its product range, and adopts the name Nestlé Alimentana.




Nescafé ads

Fearing that the Axis powers could occupy Switzerland, Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss relocates some managers to a new office in Stamford in the US, which operates as the company’s second headquarters during the war. The fighting in Europe makes it impossible for Nestlé to export milk from there, so the company supplies Africa and Asia from the US and Australia, and expands production in Latin America.


Nestlé chocolate ad

World War Two initially slows sales of Nescafé, but they pick up as hostilities continue. After the US enters the war, Nestlé brands rapidly gain popularity among American service personnel. At the end of the war, Nescafé is also included in CARE aid supplies in Japan and Europe. Nestea is launched in the late 1940s.


Maggi posters

Nestlé & Anglo Swiss merges with Swiss company Alimentana, which produces Maggi soups, bouillons and seasonings, and is renamed Nestlé Alimentana. Alimentana’s history dates back to 1884, when Julius Maggi developed a protein-rich dried soup to tackle malnutrition.

Greater consumer convenience

The post-war period is marked by growing prosperity, and people in the US and Europe spend money on machines that make life easier, such as refrigerators and freezers. They also favour convenience foods, and Nestlé Alimentana meets this need with new products including Nesquik and Maggi ready meals.




Nestea poster

In the US Nestlé Alimentana launches a soluble tea, Nestea, which is manufactured using the same method as Nescafé, and can be served both hot or cold. Nesquik, which dissolves easily in cold milk, is also launched in the US and becomes a top seller.


To strengthen Nestlé’s operations in Sri Lanka, a company subsidiary, Nassau Bahama Islands, is registered as Nestlé Products (Ceylon) Ltd.


Fondor poster

Nestlé infant cereal has been available since 1948 as a powdered product, but it is now rebranded as Cerelac. Originally only sold as a bouillon cube, Maggi seasoning brand Fondor is launched as a powder. Packaged in a convenient shaker, it can now be used as a condiment in the dining room, as well as in the kitchen.


Canned ravioli is launched under the Maggi brand. Its huge success prompts Nestlé to launch more canned, prepared foods, which become a new growth segment.

Frozen foods to pharmaceuticals

Acquisitions enable Nestlé to enter fast-growing new areas such as frozen foods, and to expand its traditional businesses in milk, coffee and canned foods. In the 1970s the company diversifies into pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. It starts to attract criticism from activist groups that allege its marketing of infant food is unethical. Nestlé later becomes one the first companies to apply the WHO code on breast-milk substitutes across its business.




Frisco and Jopa posters

With increasing numbers of households buying freezers, demand for ice cream is rising. Nestlé buys German producer Jopa and French manufacture Heudebert-Gervais to capitalise on this growth, and adds Swiss brand Frisco in 1962. The company also buys UK canned foods company Crosse & Blackwell.


Findus products

Nestlé buys the Findus frozen food brand from Swedish manufacturer Marabou, and extends the brand to international markets. Findus is one of the first companies to sell frozen foods in Europe, from 1945.


Findus products

Ceylon Nutritional Foods (Pvt) Ltd – the successor to Nestlé Products (Ceylon) Ltd - is incorporated, selling branded food products under the Nestlé, Crosse & Blackwell, Lactogen, Milkmaid and Maggi trademarks.

Nestomalt, a malted milk-food drink developed by Nestlé Australia, is later introduced to the island. The product fast becomes a household favourite in Sri Lanka, where the locals not only consume the product on its own but also mix it together with their tea. Nestomalt is only manufactured in Sri Lanka today and remains Nestlé Lanka’s biggest brand.


Chilled dairy products are increasingly popular, Nestlé buys French yogurt producer Chambourcy. In the early 1970s the latter launches the Sveltesse range of yoghurts, aimed at health- and weight-conscious consumers.


Nestlé enters mineral waters by buying a stake in French waters brand Vittel.


Stouffer's advertisement

Keen to bolster its canned foods and frozen portfolio in Anglo-Saxon markets, Nestlé takes over the US frozen foods company Stouffer Corporation, and buys canned foods producer Libby, McNeill & Libby in 1976.


For the first time, Nestlé diversifies beyond food and drink, becoming a minority shareholder in global cosmetics company L’Oréal.


Renamed Nestlé S.A, the company continues its diversification strategy, buying US pharmaceutical and ophthalmic products manufacturer Alcon Laboratories. Declining breast-feeding rates lead some activists to question the baby food marketing strategies of companies including Nestlé. In 1977 they call on people to boycott Nestlé products.


Nestlé launches a dairy development programme in Sri Lanka to help rural farmers produce more milk of better quality, honouring its commitment to the government to help develop Sri Lanka’s dairy industry.

Nestlé SA and the Government of Sri Lanka form a joint venture – International Dairy Products Ltd (IDPL) – to use local milk for condensed milk production. IDPL’s factory is based in Polonnaruwa.

Towards Nutrition, Health and Wellness

Following years of growth, Nestlé disposes of unprofitable brands and promotes those that satisfy increasingly health conscious consumers, in line with its new ‘Nutrition, Health and Wellness’ ambition. The company expands in the US, Eastern Europe and Asia, and targets for global leadership in water, ice cream and animal food.





Nestlé and L’Oreal establish Galderma as a joint venture active in dermatology. The World Health Assembly adopts the WHO code on breast-milk substitutes, and Nestlé is one of the first companies to develop policies based on it and apply them across its business.

The company Nestlé Lanka Limited is incorporated in Sri Lanka.


Reinforcing its roots in the island, Nestlé Lanka Limited becomes a public quoted company, with 5,000 local shareholders. Nestlé starts building its first multi-product manufacturing facility in Sri Lanka, located in Kurunegala, with an investment of LKR 500 million.


Nestlé begins commercial production in its Kurunegala factory. Its opening is a landmark event in the country and the factory is inaugurated by Sri Lanka’s first Executive President, His Excellency J.R. Jayawardene. Today this state-of-the-art factory produces more than 90% of the Nestlé products sold in Sri Lanka.


Carnation company

By acquiring US-based Carnation Company for USD 3 billion, Nestlé adds brands such as Carnation and Coffee-Mate to its portfolio. It also enters the pet food business when it buys the Friskies brand.



The Nespresso story begins with a simple idea: enable anyone to create a perfect cup of coffee, just like a skilled barrista.

A wholly owned subsidiary of Nestlé Lanka Limited – Eastern Food Specialties Ltd – is incorporated in Sri Lanka to manufacture coconut milk powder under the Maggi brand at the Kurunegala factory.


KitKat, Nuts, Smarties

Nestlé buys UK confectionery company Rowntree Mackintosh, adding brands including KitKat, After Eight and Smarties to its portfolio. It also acquires Italian pasta, sauce and confectionery group Buitoni-Perugina.


Nestlé establishes a joint venture with General Mills, Cereal Partners Worldwide, to produce and market breakfast cereals globally. The company also creates a joint venture with The Coca-Cola Company to form Beverage Partners Worldwide, to manufacture and market brands including Nestea.



Nestlé develops its position in mineral waters by acquiring France’s Perrier Group. Nestlé Sources Internationales is created as a separate waters business in 1993, and is renamed Nestlé Waters in 2002.


With the increasing success of Maggi Coconut Milk Powder, Nestlé Lanka dedicates a facility at its Kurunegala factory to exclusively manufacture the product. Today Nestlé Lanka is the only manufacturer of coconut milk powder in the Nestlé Group and is among the largest exporters of coconut milk powder in the world.


New CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe sees growth potential in personalised nutrition. He articulates Nestlé’s position as the leader in ‘Nutrition, Health and Wellness’, as the millennium approaches.


An Ultra-Heat Treatment (UHT) plant is opened in the Polonnaruwa factory to produce Nestomalt, Milo and Nespray Ready-to-Drink (RTD) products.



The Sustainable Agricultural Intiative Nestlé (SAIN) is launched to promote collaboration with local farmers. It aims to improve their living standards and ensure a sustainable supply of commodities.


selection of Nestlé Purina Petcare products

Nestlé buys US pet food business Ralston Purina, and merges it with Nestlé Friskies Petcare to establish the new market leader in pet care, Nestlé Purina Petcare.


Mövenpick ice cream

After expanding its ice-cream business in the 1990s, Nestlé acquires the licensing rights to premium producer Häagen-Dazs in the US and Canada, and buys Mövenpick and Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream in 2003. It also acquires frozen foods business Chef America for USD 2.6 billlion.


Nestlé gains full ownership of International Dairy Products Ltd in Sri Lanka.


Nestlé Nutrition, Nestlé’s business division that caters to specific infant, child and maternal nutrition needs, is launched in Sri Lanka.

Creating Shared Value

Nestlé articulates its Creating Shared Value approach to business for the first time, and launches its Nestlé Cocoa Plan and Nescafé Plan to further develop sustainable supply chains in cocoa and coffee. While strengthening its position in traditional segments, infant formula and frozen foods, Nestlé strengthens its focus on medical nutrition.




Nestlé announces its Creating Shared Value approach to doing business, where any action for shareholders must also create value for the communities Nestlé operates in, and for wider society. In Sri Lanka, Ceylon Nutritional Foods (Pvt) Ltd, International Dairy Products Ltd and Eastern Food Specialties Ltd merge with Nestlé Lanka Limited to form one entity.


A growing focus on medical nutrition leads Nestlé to acquire Novartis Medical Nutrition. It also buys baby food company Gerber and Swiss mineral waters concern, Sources Minérales Henniez.

Complying with new regulations – section 485 (6) of the Companies Act No. 7 of 2007 – Nestlé Lanka Limited is registered as Nestlé Lanka PLC.

Nestlé’s operations at its Polonnaruwa factory are relocated to its Kurunegala factory.


Nestlé creates a foodservice business division named Nestlé Professional, which develops products and services for culinary professionals.


The Nestlé Nutrition Institute, a non-commercial entity that shares science-based information and education with healthcare professionals, is launched in Sri Lanka.


The Nestlé Cocoa Plan

Nestlé acquires Kraft Foods’ frozen pizza business. The Nestlé Cocoa Plan and Nescafé Plan are both launched to develop the company’s sustainable supply chains in cocoa and coffee, improve social conditions in farming communities, and ensure their profitability.


Nestlé Health Science and the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences are established, to research science based nutritional products aimed at preventing and treating chronic medical conditions.


Nestlé acquires Wyeth Nutrition, formerly Pfizer Nutrition, for USD 11.9 billion, to strengthen its position in infant nutrition.


Nestlé Health Science buys US-based medical foods company Pamlab, which specialises in medical nutrition for patients with conditions including mild cognitive impairment and depression. Weight management business Jenny Craig is sold in America and Oceania.


woman applying cream

With the creation of Nestlé Skin Health, Nestlé takes full control of the Galderma dermatology joint venture which it created with L’Oréal in 1981. The companies also end their joint venture Innéov, a cosmetic nutritional supplements business launched in 2002. Galderma subsequently acquires some of its assets.



Nestlé launches Cailler, the oldest surviving Swiss chocolate brand, as its first super-premium global chocolate. French frozen foods business Davigel is sold.


Nestlé celebrates 110 years in Sri Lanka and 150 years worldwide.