The Swiss company Nestlé, founded in 1905 following the merger of Farine Lactée Henri Nestlé (1866) and the Anglo-Swiss Milk Company (1866), established its first trading office in Saigon in 1912.
The building which housed this first Magasin Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Co at 5 rue Vannier (Ngô Đức Kế) may still be seen today on the junction with Đồng Khởi street, the former rue Catinat.
The company grew significantly during the First World War years and by the 1920s the Société Nestlé was selling large quantities of evaporated milk, dairy products and chocolate to consumers in Indochina through its three offices in Saigon, Hà Nội and Hải Phong.
Throughout the colonial period, the company’s Indochina headquarters remained in Saigon, where, in the early 1930s, a new office building was inaugurated at 35-37 rue Mac-Mahon (Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa).
One of the city’s most stylish art deco structures, the old Nestlé headquarters was used for a variety of purposes after 1975, but is currently home to the Saigon Times Group.
Tim Doling is the author of the forthcoming book of walking tours entitled Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014) and also conducts 4-hour Heritage Tours of Historic Saigon and Cholon. For more information about Saigon history and Tim’s tours visit his website, www.historicvietnam.com.