“Advertising is out, credible communication is in.” These words, spoken in a 1991 interview, mark Peter Brabeck-Letmathe out as a visionary who would redefine Nestlé’s product and branding strategy.
His vision, and ambition, took Peter to the top of Nestlé during his 49 years at the company, but also to the highest mountain peaks. Born in Austria in 1944, he began Alpine climbing at the age of 10.
24 years later this Economics graduate joined Nestlé in Chile as an ice cream salesman. It wasn’t an obvious career move, but Peter had the freedom to innovate in advertising. Again, the only way was up.
To launch "Kukulina" ice cream in 1974 he created a live TV show using the brand’s entire annual marketing budget. The show ran for 18 weeks and was a runaway ratings success.
After stints as Managing Director in various Nestlé markets—during which time he won his first Cannes Lion—Peter moved to the company’s HQ in Vevey, Switzerland in 1987, to head up its Culinary Products division.
Later, as global head of marketing, communications and public affairs, he broke new ground within the food industry by treating Nestlé as a brand in its own right. By doing so Peter ensured the company’s continued relevance with consumers, by associating it with its much-loved brands.
A restless innovator, he created the food industry’s first virtual shop in 1992, which allowed people to order products using a TV screen. He launched "Buitoni Club" in 1993, pioneering the direct response relationship marketing approach that underpins the success of brands like Nespresso.
From the mid-nineties, Peter focused on the seriousness of global challenges such as obesity and ageing populations. As CEO from 1997, he reshaped Nestlé’s strategy towards "food, nutrition and wellness," which led the company’s move into sectors including healthcare and skincare.
Peter became Nestlé Chairman from 2005, and developed the concept of Creating Shared Value, the idea that a company cannot create long-term value for shareholders if it does not do the same for society.
On a personal level, he exemplifies this approach through his global advocacy on water scarcity. Since stepping down as CEO in 2008 Peter has chaired the 2030 Water Resources Group, and in 2011 accepted the Stockholm Water Industry Award on Nestlé’s behalf.
When he retires in 2017, Peter will leave behind him 34 Nestlé brands worth more than $1 billion dollars, all of which he helped build. And he’ll keep on climbing. This keen motorcyclist, pilot and classical music lover has always lived life to the full with his family.
Last Updated: January 2017