chapter  3
15 Pages

In the beginning there was Kindermehl

Henri Nestlé and the start of the industrial production of infant food
WithKarl-Peter Ellerbrock

The industrial production of infant food in the second half of the 19th century was an important sector in the early phase of industrial food production in Europe and is often associated with the name Nestlé. Contrary to the philanthropic myth of official company history writing, Henri Nestlé was a ‘dynamic entrepreneur’ and saw infant nutrition as a market opportunity. In fact the invention of Kindermehl cannot be credited to Nestlé; his experiments were based on Justus Liebig’s findings about ‘artificial child nutrition,’ published from 1865. The Kindermehl business, on which the company concentrated henceforth in accordance with Nestlé’s sales policy and product strategy, laid the foundation for the industrial rise of this future global player. The industrial production of Nestlé’s infant milk and similar products did not really help to solve the problem of infant mortality; that came about in social change during the early and high industrialization. The breakthrough only came after the Great War, with the expansion of public health care, supported by progress in medicine and nutritional science. Kindermehl, a high-priced luxury product for the well-heeled social classes who found breastfeeding ‘irksome’, was just one factor besides education, prosperity and hygiene.