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Story of a commitment

With Onome Amawhe
A hundred and thirty years ago, infant mortality was high in Switzerland—higher than in most emerging countries today. Henri Nestle, a pharmacist was worried about children dying.  He developed an infant cereal-a milk food to help feed them.

This was the first Nestle product. Henri Nestle founded his company in 1886 with the idea of offering nutritional products to consumers.

Nestle is the world’s biggest food and beverage company as well one of the greatest companies in the world. The company is also known for its interesting famous logo which also has a long and very interesting story. The Nestle logo was launched by Henri Nestle in 1868 on the basis of the meaning of his name in German— little nest, and of his family emblem symbolizing all the good values of nurturing such as family, warmth, and caring.

In 1938, the traditional nest design was combined with the “Nestlé” name to form what is called the combined mark. In 1966, the design was simplified. In 1988, the worm in the mother bird’s beak was removed and the fledglings became two instead of three. It is said that it was meant to better illustrate the activities of the company, no longer active only in nutrition, and to reflect the average modern family of two children.

The logo we know now has just been simplified. The tree is supposed to represent an oak and the birds’ thrushes. Henri Nestle established a strong identity for his company through the nest image that Nestlé still uses today. Henri Nestlé had two big visions. First, he immediately went international: the product was in five European countries four months after launch.

Second, he wanted his own brand. Store brands—private labels—already existed, but he was one of the first to create a manufacturer’s brand. When distributors asked him why he did not put the Swiss flag on his product, he is said to have replied, “Anyone can use the Swiss flag, but only I can use my coat of arms. It will be my seal of quality.” His house and first factories were in Vevey, Switzerland Nestlé’s headquarters. Henri Nestle was born in 1814 in Frankfurt Germany. He was the eleventh of fourteen children of Johann Ulrich Matthias Nestle and Anna-Maria Catharina Ehemann. Henri Nestlé’s father by tradition inherited the business of his father Johann Ulrich Nestle and became a glazier in Töngesgasse.

The Nestle family has its
origin in southern Swabian Germany. The Nestle family tree began with three brothers (thus the three young birds in the nest) from Mindersbach called Hans, Henri and Samuel Nestle. The father of these three sons was born circa 1495 (515 years ago). For over five generations glazier was passed down from father to son.

Before Henri Nestlé turned 20 in 1836, he had completed a 4-year apprenticeship with J. E. Stein, a pharmacist, and practiced his profession after fleeing the German riots in 1833 to settle in Vevey on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. At the end of 1839, he was officially authorized to perform chemical experiments, make up prescriptions, and sell medicines.
In 1843, Henri Nestlé bought into one of the region’s most progressive and versatile industries at that time, the production of rapeseeds.

He also became involved in the production of nut oils (used to fuel oil lamps), liqueurs, rum, absinth and vinegar. He also began manufacturing and selling carbonated mineral water and lemonade, although during the crisis years from 1845 to 1847 Nestlé gave up mineral water production.

In 1857 he began concentrating on gas lighting and fertilizers. He slowly gravitated towards foods and foodstuffs, experimenting with various recipes for baby-food to help mothers who were unable to breastfeed. 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. Based on his own description of the ‘farine lactee’ he said it is a “wholesome Swiss milk and a cereal component baked by a special process of my invention”. In 1867, he fed this to a premature baby boy whose mother was dangerously ill herself; the boy survived, and Nestlé’s reputation skyrocketed.

The following year he opened an office in London to cope with the quantity of orders, and within five years was exporting to South America and Australia. He passionately believed the product was revolutionary, and that it represented much more than milk laced with nutritional ingredients. Henri sought to prove that its unique composition provided undernourished infants with the correct balance of nutrients required for good health and growth. In an age of high infant mortality, this was no idle endeavor. 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
1875 for a million francs to a consortium headed by Jules Monnerat and retired but the company, under new ownership, retained his name as Farine Lactée Henri Nestlé. He then lived with his family where they helped people with small loans and publicly contributed towards improving the local infrastructure. In Glion he moved into a house later known as Villa Nestle.

Nestlé bought out Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk in 1905, and chocolate makers Peter, Cailler and Kohler – pioneers in making milk chocolate – in 1929; although it had always concentrated on milk alone, it started to diversify. Benefiting from massive surpluses of coffee beans in the 1930s, Nestlé launched the world’s first instant coffee – Nescafe – in 1938. However, sales of the instant coffee were boosted by the US military.In 1947, Nestle took over Maggi, the Swiss manufacturer of soup mixes and related foodstuffs.

The soup and stock cube enterprise was established by Julius Maggi. Maggi cubes have been for decades one of the most frequently recognized and purchased food products in Nigeria.

After the wars, growth was stimulated by acquisitions that expanded the company’s product range and brought a number of globally recognized brands into its fold. Since the 1880s, when Nestlé’s condensed milk travelled the African continent in miner’s rucksacks and continuing today, with hundreds of products available from Cairo to Cape Town, African consumers have come to see Nestlé as part of their daily lives.

Starting with the company’s first factory in 1927 (in South Africa), it now has twenty-seven factories, plus numerous distribution and management centers. In Africa, it directly employs more than 11500 people; and tens of thousands of additional people are employed as its suppliers and distributors. Nigerian consumers recognize Nestlé products for the same nutritional quality and value that it is known for, but products are made to match local culture and taste.

Southern and Eastern Africa remains the company’s largest market on the continent, offering the most diverse product range. Over the last three years, the Central and West Africa and Maghreb regionshave been growing steadily.

The top selling product categories are shelf stable dairy, which includes powdered beverages, soluble coffees, bottled water, breakfast cereals, condensed milks; and culinary, which includes bouillon, sauces and seasonings. Infant formula sales account for less than 4% of total sales in Africa.

Ice cream and powdered beverages, such as Milo, are among the leading categories. In fact, continuous improvements in technology and transportation have helped Nestlé ice cream and vyoghurts dominate in Egypt. In 2003, they grew in value by 12% and 30.5% respectively. In Nigeria since 1961, Nestlé has a factory in Agbara and a distribution centre in Ota, Ogun State.

In describing the activities of Nestle in Nigeria, Professor Doyin Soyibo, Professor of Health Economics and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ibadan, said: “Nestlé is a healthy business that supports an ever-increasing standard of living through providing varied employment opportunities and a growing concern for the interest of the community members.” Studies have shown that inspite of the meltdown,  Nestlé employees earn more than the average in manufacturing and that their salaries increase faster than the industry norm.

More than 75% said that
if given the choice to change jobs, they would decline. The study found that: • Some 40% of distributors have worked with Nestlé for 21 to 35 years, while another 32% worked with the Company for 11to 20 years. • About 84% of natural raw materials are procured locally through farmers and other suppliers. •

Local suppliers are engines of job creation: between 2002 and 2003, most added jobs, and one company had grown by 67%. • About 50% of Nestlé workers reside in neighbouring communities and spend more than 20% of their incomes locally on food, education, rent and clothing. • Nestlé is one of the three “most valued” stocks on Nigeria’s stock exchange.

• Agbara and Ota residents said that Nestlé positively affects their community through: – commitment to environmental protection (90%) – employment generation (82%) – infrastructure improvements (67.7%) and – increased income.

Nestle believes that a successful business strategy and investment over the long term should have a positive and sustainable social impact on the communities in which it operates. Consequently it has become a source of stability and economic growth in Africa. Nestle is driving the debate about how best to reform tariff and trade regulations to enable developing countries to grow their economies.

Nestle recognizes that its business in Africa is linked to the success of the African farmers. As a large purchaser of agricultural raw materials, it believes in the development and implementation of sustainable agriculture and as such it is a founding partner of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative, playing a leading role in sustainable coffee programmes, are part of the cocoa and chocolate industry’s sustainable cocoa farming efforts, and continue to help communities provide sustainable milk supplies.

In 2002 Nestle became a founding sponsor of the African Health Initiative 2010, with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Working with the Nigerian Red Cross, HIV/AIDS programmes have been implemented throughout Nigeria and have now been extended to Kenya. In its 2010 ranking, Nestle was rated as the World’s largest food producer,World’s largest beverage producer. World’s 48th largest corporate. Henri Nestle died of heart attack on July 7th 1890.


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