Nestlé celebrates 150 years with museum openings

Swiss food behemoth Nestlé marks its 150th birthday with the opening of two museums in its hometown of Vevey this month.

Nestlé celebrates 150 years with museum openings
The Nest is based in the original Nestlé factory. Photo: Nestlé

New museum Nest takes visitors on a journey through the company’s history, while the renovated Alimentarium is a hands-on exhibition and educational space dedicated to food.

The Alimentarium will be free to the public during an open house weekend on June 4th-5th as it reopens after a 19.8 million franc renovation.

Originally opened in 1985 on the lakefront in Vevey, the Alimentarium was the first in the world to explore food and human nutrition.

A nine-month renovation project has completely redesigned the museum, which now sports a new permanent exhibition, a multilingual digital archive and a ‘Food Academy’ where members of the public can take cooking classes.

Among the museum’s culinary activities, children and teenagers can learn how to cook in daytime and weekend sessions, while adults can sign up for evening classes designed by chef Philippe Ligron, a well-known TV chef and teacher at Lausanne's hospitality school EHL.

Its educational outreach programme includes a website displaying 400 items related to food history in 360-degree high definition, and an online programme for teachers and pupils.

Nestlé's birthplace

Meanwhile, the new the 50 million franc Nest was officially inaugurated on Thursday and will open to the public on June 15th.

Based in the factory in the Bosquets district of Vevey where Henry Nestlé invented his famous Farine Lactée baby formula in 1867, Nest takes visitors on an immersive journey through the company’s history and its products, including Nesquik hot chocolate powder, Nespresso instant coffee and Maggi seasoning.

Described as a discovery centre rather than a museum, its director Catherine Saurais said at the inauguration on Thursday: “The objective isn’t to tell the story for the sake of the story.

“What nest offers is a special way to revisit the meanderings of our own history, to examine the questions surrounding food production in the world today, and to explore a passionate vision of nutrition in an engaging manner.”

Split into four themed parts, Nest’s interactive elements include a body scanner where visitors can learn about the impact of certain foods on the body’s organs.

A huge employer in the area, including many expats, Nestlé is a prominent presence in Vevey.

Stefano Stroll, director of the Festival Images Vevey, said in a statement that the new museum is “an occasion to better understand” the company.

“Although Nestlé stands out here, little is known about this global multinational, which is a mix of tradition and innovation.

“Nest arouses curiosity, whilst explaining and illustrating Nestlé’s major impact on the region.”

In 1867 German pharmacist Henri Nestlé invented Farine Lactée, a baby formula for infants that couldn’t take breast milk, a product that would go on to make the company’s name.

Based in Vevey, his company quickly grew, in 1905 merging with a condensed milk competitor founded in 1866.

Over its long history it has built some of the world’s best known food brands, including Nescafe, Nesquik and Nepresso.

It has also acquired brands including Carnation, Findus frozen foods, Movenpick ice cream and San Pellegrino.

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What is Swiss rösti and how do you make it?

If you thought Swiss food is just about cheese and chocolate, think again: rösti is no small potatoes.

What is Swiss rösti and how do you make it?

You can’t live in Switzerland for more than five minutes without realising what an important role rösti potatoes play not only in the country’s culinary traditions, but also in its culture in general.

It is such an integral part of local customs that the Swiss Farmers’ Association has set a new world record when its members prepared a giant rösti in front of the parliament building in Bern on Monday.

The approximately 1,300 kg of potatoes were used for the event, where potatoes were fried in a 13.7-square metre pan shaped like a Swiss cross.

This year’s record beat the previous one from 1994 by three square metres.

And it was no small feat, given the logistics involved in the project. “The potatoes needed for this had grown over the summer in all the cantons before being brought to Bern for this culinary event”, the Association said in a press release. “In a solemn ceremony opened by bell ringers from the region and alphorn players, 27 delegations from all the cantons as well as the Principality of Liechtenstein handed over the potatoes in wicker baskets”.

This event was held to celebrate the association’s 125th anniversary, which is very fitting since in centuries past the stir-fried potatoes served as inexpensive, simple dish for farmers working in the fields.


The main appeal of rösti in those days was that potatoes were plentiful in rural areas and the dish itself required only a very basic mastery:

  • Peel and grate the raw potatoes using a standard grater. You can grate them lengthwise if you like long strands.
  • Add salt and pepper into the mixture — season lightly or a lot, depending on your taste.
  • Melt butter (rather than oil or margarine) in a frying pot.
  • When hot, pour the potato mixture and stir-fry for around 10 to 12 minutes on each side. The end product should be crispy and golden-brown, never soggy.

With time, the dish has evolved somewhat, but not too much; as many foreign residents have observed, the Swiss like their food plain and made from locally sourced ingredients.

While various ingredients like ham, bacon, and cheese can be added to the mixture, and a fried egg sometimes tops it, the recipe is still true to its origins.

READ MORE: You are not Swiss until you try these seven weird foods

Cultural impact

Whether in its original or ‘modernised’ form, rösti can hardly be called trendy.

Yet, for such a simple dish, rösti has made quite a cultural impact in Switzerland.

While it is more associated with the German-speaking part, where it originated, it is sometimes served in other regions as well, mostly as accompaniment to meat or sausages.

But beyond the mere food, this potato dish came to represent the cultural (rather than geographical) divide between the German and French-speaking regions, called the Röstigraben

In German, “Graben” means border, gap or rift – and therefore Röstigraben symbolises the cultural rift between the two largest linguistic groups in Switzerland. 

Whether such a rift actually exists in reality or just in people’s imagination is another matter. Much of this idea has to do with stereotypes of each linguistic group, but beyond the language and local customs, they are all…Swiss.

And it is not excluded that they sometimes cross the invisible Graben to share a meal of rösti together.

READ MORE: Röstigraben: The invisible barrier separating Switzerland