In the late 1960’s, a laboratory affiliated with the US space agency approached Nestlé with a request: They needed to produce crumb-free, bite-sized compressed food items – and were hoping Nestlé could help.
The request was highly unusual – but then, so was the occasion. Humans were going to attempt to set foot on the moon, something unthinkable just a few decades earlier.
A little more than 50 years ago, Nestlé supported the historic Apollo 11 space expedition by drawing on its expertise in nutrition and food manufacturing.
Crumbs are a definite no-no in space. They are not only a nuisance – floating around in weightlessness in the space capsule – they are also a hazard: they can get into the eyes of astronauts, or worse, find their way into electrical panels, where they could start a fire. (That explains why, to this day, bread is banned on the International Space Station.)
NASA’s brief was highly specific: the food cubes could not crumble one bit. Not only did they have to hold together, they also had to be of a certain nutrition value, contain a set amount of fat – and, of course, be tasty.
Nestlé took up the challenge – and came through. Nestlé’s space cubes, made entirely of concentrated natural products, came in four different flavors: strawberry, peanut, coconut, and chocolate. They met the stringent nutritional criteria laid down by the NASA. And they were small enough to eat in one bite – crumb-free food in all its glory.
Coffee in space
Those bite-sized space cubes were not the only Nestlé items that made it into space.
Astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission were keen coffee drinkers – an earthly pleasure they didn’t want to forego while travelling through space. Once again, Nestlé was solicited. The timing couldn’t have been better: Nestlé had just finished developing a freeze-drying process that retained coffee’s original aroma and flavors. In the end, Taster’s Choice, the American equivalent of Nescafé Gold, made the cut – and landed on the astronauts’ menu.
Drinking coffee in space, however, was not without its challenges: the reduced air pressure in the space capsule meant that water boiled at a lower temperature, making it more challenging than usual for the coffee to dissolve – but that didn’t discourage the astronauts from getting their coffee fix.
Supporting history in the making
A few decades after lending its nutrition expertise to the historic Apollo 11 mission, Nestlé supported Solar Impulse, the world’s first attempt to fly around the world in a solar-powered aircraft, developing tailored meals and snacks for the pilots.
While flying, the pilots ate nutritionally personalized meals, all researched, developed and supplied by Nestlé – ranging from mushroom risotto and potato gratin, to yogurts and breakfast cereals.
In space, at high altitude, or on land, Nestlé has been at the forefront of food innovation for more than 150 years, developing products that are nutritious and tasty – and that some love to the moon and back.