Nestlé feting 150 years with heritage project

Nestlé is marking its 150th anniversary in 2016 with a project to renovate historic company buildings in Vevey, the town in the canton of Vaud where it is headquartered, to create a community and discovery centre.

Nestlé feting 150 years with heritage project
Period drawing of original Nestlé factory in Vevey. Photo: Nestlé

The buildings, located near the town’s train station, include a factory established by pharmacist Henri Nestlé, who developed powdered milk on the site in 1866 to launch what is now the world’s largest food company.

The company is investing 55 million francs in the project, according to a report from the 24heures website.

“The main building will be turned into a place for meeting and exchange aimed at the public,” Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Nestlé chairman, said in a statement issued on the company’s website on Tuesday.

“It will allow people to discover the past as well as the future of Nestlé.”

Chief executive Paul Bulcke said the project, based at the heart of the company’s origins, “testifies to our roots in Vevey and in Switzerland.”

From a small producer of an innovative product (powdered milk) , Nestlé has become the biggest company of “nutrition, health and well-being, employing 330,000 people in the world — we are proud of our roots”, Bulcke said.

Nestlé said it plans a fun discovery centre where visitors can learn about all aspects of the company through displays aimed at families, consumers and employees.

A thematic exposition will present the current and future activities of Nestlé, in addition to its history.

Space will also be set aside for the company’s archives.

Buildings to be renovated on the site known as Les Bosquets, include the former powdered milk factory, the administrative building established by Henri Nestlé known as “La Villa” and the metal structure of a former bakery.

A new glass covered structure will be inserted between the historic buildings to serve as a welcome centre and place for relaxation, with an area to eat and drink.

The new centre will be within a two minutes’ walk of the Vevey train station.

The project follows the company’s establishment of a food museum in Vevey called the Alimentarium, which opened in 1985.

Nestlé said the building housing the museum will be renovated and a “new exposition concept” will be inaugurated in time for the company’s 150th birthday.

Henri Nestlé, originally from Frankfurt, Germany, moved to Vevey at the age of 25 after training as a pharmacist.

He initially acquired a factory where he produced such products as oil, eau de vie, bone powder and mineral water before concocting the powdered milk in 1866 that was to cement his fortune.

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‘Unlimited resources’: Switzerland’s Nestle goes vegan

Swiss food giant Nestle, which has made billions with dairy products, said Monday it will host start-ups that want to develop vegetarian alternatives.

'Unlimited resources': Switzerland's Nestle goes vegan

Nestle could thus find itself at the forefront of a sector that has strong growth potential, an analyst commented.

It plans to open its research and development (R&D) centre in Konolfingen, Switzerland to “start-ups, students and scientists” a statement said.

In addition to testing sustainable dairy products, the group plans to encourage work on plant-based dairy alternatives, it added.

Chief executive Mark Schneider was quoted as saying that “innovation in milk products and plant-based dairy alternatives is core to Nestle's portfolio strategy.”

The group unveiled a vegetable-based milk that had already been developed with the process, and technical director Stefan Palzer told AFP it planned to focus on 100-200 such projects a year.

Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux, noted that while Nestle had missed some consumer trends in the past, it has now “taken something of a lead in the plant-based alternative market for food”.

And “given its pretty much unlimited resources, Nestle is going to come out one of the winners in the space,” Cox forecast in an e-mail.

Nestle said that “internal, external and mixed teams” would work at the R&D centre over six-month periods.

Nestle would provide “expertise and key equipment such as small to medium-scale production equipment to facilitate the rapid upscaling of products for a test launch in a retail environment,” it added.

The Swiss food giant has long been known for its dairy products, but faced a boycott in the 1970s for allegedly discouraging mothers in developing countries from breastfeeding even though it was cheaper and more nutritious than powdered formula.

On Monday, the group's statement also underscored that the research initiative was part of its commitment to help fight global warming.

“As a company, we have set ambitious climate goals. This is part of our promise to develop products that are good for you and good for the planet,” it said.