NESTLE CASE STUDY
Nestle is one of the oldest of all multinational businesses. The company was founded in Switzerland in 1866 by Heinrich Nestle, who established Nestle to distribute “milk food,” a type of infant food he had invented that was made from powdered milk, baked food, and sugar. From its very early days, the company looked to other countries for growth opportunities, establishing its first foreign offices in London in 1868. In 1905, the company merged with the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk, thereby broadening the company’s product line to include both condensed milk and infant formulas. Forced by Switzerland’s small size to look outside’ its borders for growth opportunities, Nestle established condensed milk and infant food processing plants in the United States and Britain in the late 19th century and in Australia, South America, Africa, and Asia in the first three decades of the 20th century. In 1929, Nestle moved into the chocolate business when it acquired a Swiss chocolate maker. This was followed in 1938 by the development of Nestle’s most revolutionary product, Nescafe, the world’s first soluble coffee drink. After World War 11, Nestle continued to expand into other areas of the food business, primarily through a series of acquisitions that included Maggi (1947), Cross & Blackwell (1960), Findus (1962), Libby’s (1970), Stouffer’s (1973), Carnation (1985), Rowntree (1988), and Perrier (1992). By the late 1990s, Nestle had 500 factories in 76 countries and sold its products in a staggering 193 nations-almost every country in the world. In 1998, the company generated sales of close to SWF 72 billion ($51 billion), only 1 percent of which occurred in its home country. Similarly, only 3 percent of its- 210,000 employees were located in Switzerland. Nestle was the world’s biggest maker of infant formula, powdered milk, chocolates, instant coffee, soups, and mineral waters. It was number two in ice cream, breakfast cereals, and pet food. Roughly 38 percent of its food sales were made in Europe, 32 percent in the Americas, and 20 percent in Africa and Asia.
Nestlé is a decentralized organization. Responsibility for operating decisions is pushed down to local units, which typically enjoy a high degree of autonomy with regard to decisions involving pricing, distribution, marketing, human resources, and so on. At the same time, the company is organized into seven worldwide strategic business units (SBUs) that have responsibility for high-level strategic decisions and business development. For example, a strategic business unit focuses on coffee and beverages. Another one focuses on confectionery and ice cream. These SBUs engage in overall strategy development, including acquisitions and market entry strategy. In recent years, two-thirds of Nestlé’s growth has come from acquisitions, so this is a critical function. Running in parallel to this structure is a regional organization that divides the world into five major geographical zones, such as Europe, North America and Asia. The regional organizations assist in the overall strategy development process and are responsible for developing regional strategies (an example would be Nestlé’s strategy in the Middle East, which was discussed earlier). Neither the SBU nor regional managers, however, get involved in local operating or strategic decisions on anything other than an exceptional basis. Although Nestlé makes intensive use of local managers to knit its diverse worldwide operations together, the company relies on its “expatriate army.” This consists of about 700 managers who spend the bulk of their careers on foreign assignments, moving from one country to the next. Selected primarily on the basis of their ability, drive and willingness to live a quasi-nomadic lifestyle, these individuals often work in half-a-dozen natiosn during their careers. Nestlé also uses management development programs as a strategic tool for creating...
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