The Sweet History of Nestlé

in Candy Blog

What’s your favorite Nestlé candy?

Before you answer the question, let us just break it down so you know all the options.

On the chocolate side of things Nestlé offers some of the best confectionery treats to every grace store shelves. These include Butterfinger, Crunch, BabyRuth, 100Grand, Raisinets, Chunky, and OhHenry! On the hard candy side, Nestlé is responsible for SweeTarts, LaffyTaffy, Nerds, FunDip, PixyStix, Gobstopper, BottleCaps, Spree, and Runts.

Now that you know what your sweet tooth can snack on, we’ll ask the question one more time. What is your favorite Nestlé Candy?

Nestlé is one of the largest publicly held food companies in the world with over 2000 subsidiaries that range from the classic confections we know and love all the way to pet food, frozen food, and baby formula.

Nestlé is widely respected as one of the big 10 food conglomerates but spent its early years in Switzerland perfecting a product that catapulted the brand name to the top of the food industry.

We wanted to know a little bit more about the early years of Nestlé and how they got into the candy game, so we did what any good candy lover would do and took to the Nestlé archives to find out a little more.

Here’s the sweet history of Nestlé.

Nestlé starts as a milk company in Switzerland.

Before there was Nestlé there was the Anglo-Swiss Milk Company founded by George and Charles Page in 1866. These two brothers are responsible for creating the infrastructure that would support the Nestlé brand for the next 100 years.

Around the same time that the Page brothers were forming their company, Henri Nestlé was creating a milk-based baby food in Vevey, Switzerland. This product was one of the first of its kind and was quickly picked up by other European countries. Within a year of launching his product, Nestlé partnered with chocolatier, Daniel Peter to create a milk chocolate product and manufacturing process that eliminated the need for water, helping the chocolate avoid mildew buildup in storage.

Nestlé takes over as the top Swiss chocolate maker.

With the help of Daniel Peter and in collaboration with the Cailler family who owned a chocolate factory in Broc, Sweden, Nestlé began producing large quantities of chocolate that were sold in Europe. Before they knew it, the Nestlé and Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company had become a major leader in the Swiss chocolate industry and could be found on store shelves all over Europe.

It was around the beginning of WWI that governments took notice of the Nestlé operation and offered contracts to the brand to supply troops with both condensed milk and milk chocolate. Production skyrocketed as the brand opened up operations in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain. As the first World War came to a close, government contracts dried up and the brand experienced a massive lull where profits dropped.

During the years between WWI and WWII, Nestlé focused its attention on further developing its confectionery creations while also directing effort at other food industries. During the early 1930s, Nestlé introduced white chocolate to the world, which became a massive hit amongst both European and American taste buds.

Nestlé introduces the world to instant coffee.

When WWII hit, Nestlé once again hit a low period where profits dropped from $20 million down to $6 million, forcing the brand to look at other opportunities in the food space. This led to the development of Nescafe Coffee. This invention turned into one of the most popular product lines that Nestlé ever released. Without hesitation governments on both sides of the war contracted Nestlé to produce Nescafe Coffee on a large scale which was distributed to troops in MRE rations.

At this time chocolate remained one of the brand’s primary products leading to the development of new concepts like Butterfinger and Baby Ruth, both of which were originally created by Curtiss Candy Company and bought by Nestlé.

Nestlé hits a food boom.

From the 1950s-70s Nestlé began to acquire other food brands under their name. The likes of Maggi, Findus, Libby, and Stouffers—you know them most famously for their microwave mac and cheese and lasagna. These moves propelled the brand forward into new markets and helped expand the company into the 1980s where it acquired other brands like Coffee Mate, Friskies, and British Confectionery Company Rowntree Macintosh, the creators of KitKat, Rolo, Smarties, and Aero.

When the 1990s rolled around, Nestlé was sitting atop the food chain and looking to expand even more. This led to the acquisition of companies like San Pellegrino (1997), D'Onofrio (1997), Spillers Petfoods (1998), and Ralston Purina (2002).

During this time, there were two major acquisitions that cemented Nestlé as a food giant. First was its merger with Dreyer's ice cream, then a US$2.6 billion acquisition of Chef America, the creator of Hot Pockets. For a moment it appeared as though Nestlé was also going to acquire Hersheys in partnership with Cadbury but the deal eventually fell through—this would have eliminated its top competitor and put Nestlé at the helm of confectionery production.

In January 2006, it took full ownership of Dreyer's, thus becoming the world's largest ice cream maker, with a 17.5% market share.

Nestlé cashes in on the biggest candy deal in decades.

Over the next decade, Nestlé continued to grow across all different kinds of food industries acquiring brands left and right. At the same time, it also expanded its confectionery operations into more countries, making it one of the most recognizable brands in the entire world.

In 2018 Nestlé sold all of its confectionery business to Ferrara Candy Company for $2.8 billion. This included the rights to all Nestlé candy products including Butterfinger, Crunch, BabyRuth, 100Grand, Raisinets, Chunky, OhHenry! and SnoCaps, as well as local sugar brands such as SweeTarts, LaffyTaffy, Nerds, FunDip, PixyStix, Gobstopper, BottleCaps, Spree and Runts. The only dessert-type brand that Nestlé retained was its iconic Toll House brand.

All in all The Nestlé Enterprise is valued at about $397 billion and holds a place at the table of one of the most powerful, innovative, and industry-trending brands in the world.

While we were sad to see Nestlé get out of the candy industry, we’re incredibly grateful for all the amazing candy products they brought to the world. Many of which you can get right here in our digital aisles!

I love these articles about the history of famous chocolate/candy companies!!! Don’t stop!!

Terese Hoskins

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