Food scientists play pivotal role in Nestlé’s 150 years

As Nestlé celebrates 150 years, it’s a good time recognise the evolution of the company and the underlying processes that have led to Nestlé being the business it is today.

Intensive research and testing – always

In mid 1867, after intensive research and tests, Pharmacist Henri Nestlé developed an alternative source of infant nutrition for young babies unable to take breast milk. His formula was approved and tested by doctors and midwives and he continued to regularly research his products to ensure safety and quality. The invention of this life saving product led to widespread success and its use quickly extended to the elderly, unwell and infirm.

Safety and quality control have always been non-negotiable priorities for Nestlé. Behind every product produced by Nestlé a team of scientists, engineers, nutritionists, regulatory specialists and consumer care representatives are focused on creating food and beverages that consumers can trust in all respects. Quality control and food safety standards are applied every step of the way, from sourcing raw materials, through every stage of manufacturing and packaging, then through to supply chain management and product storage and use.

Nestlé’s quality systems are underpinned by the most recent scientific knowledge; both in nutrition science and food technology. They have established what is now the world’s largest private nutrition and food research organisation, employing over 5000 people across their 34 worldwide research and development facilities.

Sweet innovative success- condensed milk and chocolate

In 1874, Nestlé developed its first condensed milk product to contend with competitor Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company. Just over 30 years later the two companies merged and Nestlé formed a dynamic new venture capable of supplying a growing world market for milk-based products.

Nestlé’s condensed milk first made its way to New Zealand in the luggage of European immigrants. Shortly after 1885, when the Nestlé trademark was registered in Wellington, the Underwood Milk Condensory factory in Invercargill was established and New Zealand produced its first locally made Nestlé products. In 1901, the milk was renamed Highlander Milk, most likely a reflection of the strong Scottish influence in the South Island. Today the range includes Classic Sweetened Condensed Milk, Light Sweetened Condensed Milk and Ready to use Caramel.

It’s not Nestlé without chocolate

Nestlé added milk chocolate to their product line when Peter & Kohler, trading as the Swiss General Chocolate Company, agreed to have chocolate produced under license by Nestlé in 1904. However, prior to this Henri Nestlé had made a major contribution to the development of chocolate when back in 1887 he introduced condensed milk to Peter, who had been trying to develop a sweet, less bitter version of chocolate.

It wasn’t until 1920 that milk chocolate was imported to New Zealand and sold in Parnell’s Heard Ltd confectionery shop. Confectionery production started when New Zealand Milk Products Ltd accepted a £38,576 construction contract to build a confectionery factory on the corner of Clevedon Road and St Georges Bay Road in Parnell, Auckland. The factory was completed in ten months and by October 1929 the Parnell factory was producing 41.5 tonnes of chocolate each month.

Nescafé saves Brazilian coffee growers in 1930s

Bulk soluble Nescafé was initially imported and packed in tins at the Parnell factory. As demand increased, the Cambria Park factory in Wiri, named after the US army base that occupied the site during World War II, was opened in 1962 to expand Nescafé production in New Zealand.

Each day, Cambria Park staff taste tested every newly roasted batch of coffee to ensure quality control for both aroma and flavour.

Nescafé has a rich history that spans back to 1929. After the Wall Street crash, Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer, was confronted with a vast surplus of coffee beans. The Brazilian government approached Nestlé hoping they might help in their plight. Chemist Dr Max Morgenthaler joined Nestlé to help researchers find a solution. He discovered that the taste and aroma of coffee was preserved better in sweetened milk and also found that coffee lasted longer after being exposed to high temperature and pressure. After nine years of trial and error Nescafé was born – a convenient, soluble coffee powder that preserves the bean’s real aroma.

During World War II, Nescafé played a fundamental role in ration kits to American troops. The volume of sales doubled and two production factories were set up in the U.S to keep up with demand. But it didn’t stop there- Sir Edmund Hillary packed Nescafé for his Mt Everest climb in 1953 and astronauts even enjoyed it on the moon.

Innovating instant coffee even more

During the 1960s Nescafé continued to innovate what was by now a widely popular and much in demand product. Glass containers were introduced, to improve freshness and in 1965 Nescafé invented a freeze-dried soluble coffee – Nescafé Gold Blend, which offered and even more authentic coffee experience. In 2013, Nestlé again changed the way Kiwis would enjoy coffee by introducing Nescafé Dolce Gusto, a coffee capsule machine that allowed coffee lovers to enjoy a coffee-shop quality at home at a cost far less than the high-priced machines.

Cambria Park creates major export opportunities

The opening of Cambria Park in 1962 signalled a boost to New Zealand's economy: Prime Minister Sir Keith Holyoake noted its significance in increasing New Zealand's exports and broadening the economic base of the country.

With a growing demand for Nestlé products in the region and overseas, in 2003 Nestlé invested $20m to expand Cambria Park while merging sugar confectionery production from sites in Australia and Waiuku. The expansion created 65 new jobs, increased production and made Nestlé New Zealand an exporter of value added goods with more than $25 million of export revenue.

Cambria Park also started producing Milo, Highlander Condensed Milk and Carnation Reduced Cream after the Underwood Milk Condensory factory closed in 1965.

Today, Nestlé at Cambria Park employs 320 people, producing for New Zealand and for export.


Maggi brings New Zealanders new food ideas

Cambria Park’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities provided the opportunity for Nestle to begin producing Maggi products in New Zealand. Julius Maggi invented Maggi’s distinctive gold and red-packaged meal flavour enhancers around the same time as Henri Nestlé was perfecting his infant milk food. In 1947 Nestlé acquired Maggi, going on to manufacture the now iconic Maggi soup in New Zealand in 1952.

The range quickly grew and within three years, Maggi launched sauce mixes, soups, stock powders and cubes; many of which are still used in New Zealand kitchens today and sit alongside the Maggi noodle range.

The Maggi journey is ongoing, evolving with developments in nutrition knowledge, improved food technology and manufacturing capabilities. These have enabled improvements in both the nutritional and culinary properties of the many different products. The introduction of a gluten free range across seven recipe bases is a testament to the skills of their technologists, as are extensive reductions in sodium in Maggi noodles while preserving a taste consumers enjoy.

The brand focus today is on helping people increase vegetable intake and encouraging appropriate portion sizes. Alongside traditional marketing activities, for many years, secondary school students have been involved in Maggi cooking classes and cooking competitions throughout New Zealand. Maggi is an internationally loved brand with product variants in each country being developed to suit local culinary preferences. What remains consistent is the company’s commitment to creating products that will make it easier for people to prepare healthy delicious meals that families will enjoy again and again.

Supporting undernourished children with Milo

Milo has become a part of growing up in New Zealand. Originally created in Australia in 1934 to help undernourished children get more vitamins and minerals during the Great Depression, Kiwis quickly adopted it on its introduction to New Zealand a year later, delivering additional vitamins and minerals to help growing children – with a taste children love.

Today Milo continues to be a useful source of nutrition for New Zealand children, with the formula refined to align with the nutrition needs of children today. It is still made from the same four key ingredients as in 1935 – malt barley, milk powder, sugar and cocoa – together with eight vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin D, B3, 6 and 12.

Looking ahead

Today, people are more conscious than ever of their food and beverage choices and the impact on themselves and those around them.

With 150 years behind it, the company has a significant focus on a sustainable long term future, with an emphasis on managing water, dealing with the challenges of preventing and mitigating against climate change, and improving the sustainability of its ingredient sourcing for both farmers and the environment.

Nestlé is also tackling changing nutrition needs. While over-nutrition and obesity are widely recognised as significant public health issues, under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are also common. Product development focuses on both, while existing products are also reviewed to improve their nutritional profile.

Alongside this, Nestlé promotes nutrition, health and wellness through grassroots activities such as Cook for Life, which teaches youth how to prepare a nutritious meal, and Healthy Active Kids which, in partnership with AUT Millennium and New Zealand Nutrition Foundation, aims to increase nutrition knowledge and physical exercise in school-aged children.

True to their commitment of creating shared value, in 2011 Nestlé formed a business aimed at forging a new industry to develop science based nutritional products to contribute to the course of health management. Called Nestlé Health Science, it provides solutions to improve patient outcomes, promote dietary management of disease and enhance quality of life.

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