Picture of Daniel Peter

Daniel Peter

Class of 2014

Daniel Peter was born in 1836, in Vevey, Switzerland. He was the son of a butcher, and is credited as the inventor of milk chocolate.

Daniel started out as a candlemaker by trade, but the advent of the oil lamp in the 1860s caused a downturn in the popularity of candles, leading the entrepreneur to seek another use for his candle factory.

Before he unlocked the secret to mixing milk with chocolate, Daniel became smitten with the eldest daughter of Swiss chocolatier François-Louis Cailler, Fanny. They married, and Daniel became more curious about chocolate as a possibility in his factory.

Into the 1870s, cacao was mainly used as an ingredient for a chocolate drink. Daniel continued his research in an effort to develop a new kind of product using cocoa powder. Although he first attempted to blend milk into chocolate, it wasn’t until several years later that he perfected the process of dehydrating the milk to prevent spoilage. Previous attempts to use whole milk with the cocoa failed because milk’s high water content turned the chocolate rancid.

Daniel and Fanny’s firstborn daughter, Rose, proved difficult to breastfeed, and another Swiss neighbor, Henri Nestlé, a chemist, suggested giving the child his “farine lactée,” a milk-food for babies.

That worked for the baby, and in 1875, after considerable trial and error, Daniel invented milk chocolate using Nestlé’s sweetened condensed milk. This breakthrough allowed him to refine his formula, and his milk chocolate became a sensation, awarded with medals at expositions and embraced by the European chocolate-loving public. In 1879, Daniel and Henri Nestlé joined forces to form the Nestlé company.

It was not until 1901 that milk chocolate reached the U.S. through Peter’s Chocolate’s stateside sales representative, Lamont, Corliss and Co. By 1908, the Peter’s facility opened in Fulton, NY. The factory became part of Nestlé’s Chocolate Co. in 1951. In 2002, the Peter’s brand was purchased by Cargill, Inc. and today the line includes a variety of high quality chocolate and related products including chocolate liquors, and coatings sold throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Daniel died on November 4, 1919, and at his funeral in Switzerland, was eulogized for his work in the chocolate industry.