From Milkmaids to Multinational Markets: Nestlé’s Branding Story

Author:Catherine Jewell
Position:Communications Division, WIPO

With operations in 150 countries, Nestlé is a world-leading food and drink company. Intellectual property (IP) has been in the company’s DNA since its founder, Henri Nestlé, began producing his breakthrough infant formula –“farine lactée,” a combination of cow’s milk, wheat flour and sugar – in 1867. Today, the company owns over 2,000 brands, 30 of which generate more than a billion Swiss francs... (see full summary)


How big is Nestlé’s global footprint?

Nestlé operates in over 150 countries and employs around 335,000 people. We have 436 factories in 85 countries. Nestlé is a market leader in most of the food and beverage categories in which it operates, but our ambition today is to enhance people’s quality of life through nutrition health and wellness with science-based innovations. This goes far beyond the goals of a standard food and beverage company.

Why is IP protection important to Nestlé?

As a marketing pioneer, Henri Nestlé was fully aware of the importance of brands and protecting them. From the outset he insisted on consistent use of “Nestlé” on all his products. He created the eye-catching bird’s nest logo in 1868 to ensure that consumers could easily identify his products wherever they were sold. It was inspired by his family coat of arms. That logo has since become a “seal” guaranteeing the high quality of the products that bear it.

The Nestlé Group still believes in and is committed to developing strong brands around high-quality products that consumers can trust. Today, Nestlé owns more than 2,000 brands, protected in over 170 countries. Over 30 of these are what are known as billionaire brands, each generating at least one billion Swiss francs in annual sales.

How does Nestlé manage its trademarks?

Nestlé’s trademark portfolio is managed centrally by our IP team at the company’s Swiss headquarters in Vevey. The team comprises 12 IP counsels and around ten paralegal staff. We work closely with our businesses across the globe, providing legal advice and recommendations on how best to protect their ideas and creations to ensure their projects get off the ground smoothly. This involves identifying potential prior rights and eliminating any potential obstacles, securing ownership of relevant copyrights, and working with our businesses to define appropriate protection strategies in accordance with the importance, nature, scope and planned geographical extension of their project. Of course, we also monitor and defend the corresponding protections against any unauthorized use.

To ensure we have a coherent trademark protection strategy across all our businesses, we have created an IP network with “IP champions” in 48 countries.

How does the company keep pace with changing consumer tastes?

With over 10,000 different products – and over one billion of them sold every day – Nestlé has products for every moment of every day, morning to night, and...

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