Nescafé instant coffee is now present in over 180 countries, with more than 5,500 cups consumed every second.
The story starts in 1929, when Louis Dapples, the Nestlé chairman at the time, was presented with an interesting task by his former employer, the Banque Française et Italienne pour l’Amérique du Sud. Following the Wall Street Crash and the collapse of coffee prices, the bank had a lot of coffee sitting unsold in warehouses in Brazil.
Nestlé was asked whether these stocks could be turned into a ‘soluble coffee cube’ to be sold to consumers.
A chemist, Dr Max Morgenthaler, joined the company to help its researchers find a solution. After three years of research they discovered that café au lait – coffee mixed with milk and sugar – converted into powder kept its flavour for longer. But this powder was not easily soluble, and the milk and sugar caused production challenges.
However, Dr Morgenthaler found that coffee taste and aroma were better preserved in sweetened milk coffee rather than unsweetened. He also found that the coffee kept longer after being exposed to high temperature and pressure. He concluded that the secret of preserving the coffee aroma lay in creating a soluble coffee with enough carbohydrates. This was new and went against original thinking.
A year later he used a specific technique to produce a powder that did this, and presented it to the Nestlé executive board and technical directors as drinkable soluble coffee samples. Two years later on 1 April 1938, the soluble coffee product, named Nescafé, was launched in Switzerland. Nestlé set up a large-scale production line of coffee extraction and ‘spray drying’ coffee beans to produce Nescafé at its factory in the Swiss town of Orbe.