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Henri Nestlé

Henri Nestlé, born Heinrich Nestle (10 August 1814 – 7 July 1890), was the founder of Nestlé S.A., the world's largest food and beverage company, as well as one of the main creators of milk chocolate.


Early life


Heinrich Nestle was born on 10 August 1814, in Frankfurt, Germany. He was the eleventh of fourteen children of Johann Ulrich Matthias Nestle and Anna-Maria Catharina Ehemann. Heinrich Nestle's father by tradition inherited the business of his father Johann Ulrich Nestle and became a glazier in Töngesgasse. The later Lord Mayor of Frankfurt am Main, Gustav Edmund Nestle, was his brother.


The Nestle family has its origin in southern swabian Germany, predominantly in the boroughs of the black forest as Dornstetten, Freudenstadt, Mindersbach, Nagold and Sulz on Neckar. In the Swabian dialect "Nestle" is a small bird's nest.

The Name of Nestle also has different variations of it which include: Nästlin, Nästlen, Nestlin, Nestlen, and Niestle.

The Nestle family tree began with three brothers (thus the three young birds in the nest being fed by their mother on the family coat of arms) from Mindersbach called Hans, Heinrich and Samuel Nestlin. The father of these three sons was born circa 1495. Hans, the eldest, was born in 1520 and had a son with the same name, who later became mayor of Nagold. His son Ulrich was a barber and his fifth son was the first glazier in the family. For over five generations this profession was passed down from father to son. Additionally the Nestles provided a number of mayors for the boroughs of Dornstetten, Freudenstadt, Nagold and Sulz on Neckar.

Name change from Heinrich Nestle to Henri Nestlé

Before Nestlé turned 20 in 1836, he had completed a 4-year apprenticeship with J. E. Stein, an owner of a pharmacy. At the end of 1839, he was officially authorized to perform chemical experiments, make up prescriptions, and sell medicines. During this time, he changed his name to Henri Nestlé in order to adapt better to the new social conditions in Vevey, Switzerland.

Early career

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.


Henri Nestlé and Anna Clémentine Thérèse Ehemant were married on 23 May, 1860

Nestlé S.A. Career


It is impossible to say when Henri Nestlé started working on the infant formula project. His interest is known to have been spurred by several factors:

  • The high infant death rate in his family. Half of the 14 children died before reaching adulthood.
  • His background as a pharmacist’s assistant.
  • His wife who knew all about infant mortality being a daughter of a charity doctor.

Henri Nestlé combined cow’s milk with wheat, flour, and sugar to produce a substitute of mother’s milk for those children who could not accept breast-feeding. Moreover, Henri Nestlé and Jean Balthasar Schnetzler, his friend and a scientist in human nutrition, removed the acid and the starch in wheat flour because they were difficult for babies to digest. The product could be prepared by simply adding water and is considered the first infant formula. People quickly recognized the value of the new product, and soon, Farine Lactée Henri Nestlé (Henri Nestlé's Milk Flour in French) was being sold in much of Europe. By the 1870's, Nestle's Infant Food, made with malt, cow's milk, sugar, and wheat flour, was selling in the US, for $0.50 a bottle.


Henri Nestlé sold his company 1875 to his business associates and then lived with his family alternately in Montreux and Glion, 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.


Henri Nestlé-Ehmant died of a myocardial infarction in Glion VD on 7 July 1890.


  • Nestle, H. W.: Die Familie Nestle, einschl. Stammbaum der Familie. Stuttgart 1976
  • Pfiffner, A.: Henri Nestlé: Vom Frankfurter Apothekergehilfen zum Schweizer Pionierunternehmer. Zürich, 1993
  • Alex Capus: Patriarchen, Albrecht Knaus-Verlag, München 2006. ISBN 3-813502-73-2.

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