The key factor which drove the early history of the enterprise that would become The Nestlé Company was Henri Nestlé's search for a healthy, economical alternative to breastfeeding for mothers who could not feed their infants at the breast.
In the mid-1860s Nestlé, a trained pharmacist, began experimenting with various combinations of cow's milk, wheat flour and sugar in an attempt to develop an alternative source of infant nutrition for mothers who were unable to breast feed. His ultimate goal was to help combat the problem of infant mortality due to malnutrition. He called the new product Farine Lactée Henri Nestlé.
Nestlé's first customer was a premature infant who could tolerate neither his mother's milk nor any of the conventional substitutes, and had been given up for lost by local physiciansPeople quickly recognized the value of the new product, after Nestlé's new formula saved the child's life and within a few years, Farine Lactée Nestlé was being marketed in much of Europe.
Henri Nestlé also showed early understanding of the power of branding. He had adopted his own coat of arms as a trademark; in Swiss German, Nestlé means 'little nest'. One of his agents suggested that the nest could be exchanged for the white cross of the Swiss flag. His response was firm: "I regret that I cannot allow you to change my nest for a Swiss cross . I cannot have a different trademark inevery country; anyone can make use of a cross, but no-one else may use my coat of arms.".
Meanwhile, the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company, founded in 1866 by Americans Charles and George Page, broadened its product line in the mid-1870s to include cheese and infant formulas. The Nestlé Company, which had been purchased from Henri Nestlé by Jules Monnerat in 1874, responded by launching a condensed milk product of its own.