Branding and retail strategy in the condensed milk trade: Borden and Nestlé in East Asia, 1870–1929

This article examines the branding, retail and consumer acceptance of condensed milk in Asian markets during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The two giants of the trade, Borden in the United States and Nestlé & Anglo-Swiss in Europe, each carved out distinct new markets in colonial Southeast Asia, but only the latter was committed to maintaining a long term presence, investing in local production and marketing, and taking over rights to Borden’s well-known Eagle brand after the Great War. As Nestlé expanded into Japan and China, its brand-led strategy faced new challenges of protectionism and a wave of lower priced knockoff products. Lacking a dedicated local partner, Nestlé lost ground, but remained focussed on retaining the integrity of its premium brands, a strategy that served it well over the long term.