A rich heritage of Life-Transforming Nutrition
Poor infant nutrition – a 19th century common cause of infant mortality across Europe
At the end of the nineteenth century one in five infants died before the age of one, with poor nutrition recognized as one of the main causes1-2. Many mothers struggled to breastfeed and were forced to use animal milks, particularly cow’s milk, to feed their babies. It was not known at the time that the composition of cow’s milk was not appropriate for feeding infants and could also be a carrier of disease. These two factors contributed to high infant mortality across Europe.
An important discovery and a breakthrough in nutritional innovation
In 1885, based on his laboratory-based study of breastmilk, Professor Backhaus pioneered an innovation in infant formula: a breakthrough formula inspired by breast milk. This more easily digestible formula ensured mothers unable to breast feed, had a high quality and safe alternative they could trust.
Nutricia is born
In 1896 Dr. Johannes van der Hagen, a Dutch medical doctor and Public Health Inspector, learned about Professor Backhaus’ invention at a medical conference and was inspired to make his formula more widely available to mothers who couldn’t breastfeed. Together with his brother Martinus van der Hagen, he founded the new company Nutricia and in doing so positively impacted millions of lives around the world for over 125 years.
Beyond infant nutrition and the start of medical nutrition
Always strongly rooted in science, Nutricia quickly expanded its focus beyond infant nutrition.
Medical advances had discovered important links between nutrition and many common illnesses at key moments in life and as such, Nutricia was among the first to pioneer the concept of ‘medical nutrition’. This led to the development of special milks, including low-sugar solutions for diabetic patients and milks fortified with iodine for goitre sufferers - a swelling of the thyroid gland that was particularly prevalent at this time.
Nutricia today – Life-Transforming Nutrition at every stage of life
From its earliest days Nutricia has distinguished itself through a commitment to leading-edge nutritional research that has led to the discovery, development, and delivery of breakthrough nutritional solutions for parents, patients and carers all around the world.
Now established as a key healthcare brand of Danone, Nutricia has intensified its focus and expertise on developing research-based, life-transforming, nutritional solutions to help people around the world live longer, more joyful, and healthier lives.
- UTP Journals Vincent J. Knapp. See obituary on p. 407. CBMH/BCHM / Volume 15: 1998 / p. 317-36 https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/cbmh.15.2.317
Long-Term Factors in American Economic Growth. Stanley L. Engerman and Robert E. Gallman, eds. University of Chicago Press. ISBN: 0-226-20928-8 1986 https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/6806299.pdf
Timeline from 1896 onwards
The patent: a breakthrough in infant milk formula
Professor Backhaus filed a patent for his innovation in infant milk formula: a more easily digestible formula inspired by breast milk, saving the lives of thousands of babies all around the world.
The name Nutricia
Our founders named their enterprise ‘Nutricia’ after Professor Backhaus’ laboratory, the ‘Nutricia Zentrale’, which derived its name from the latin word ‘nutrire’ (‘to feed’).
The expertise Professor Backhaus brought to the Nutricia company, together with the easily identifiable name (meaning something close to ‘wet nurse’), enabled the company to quickly build trust as it supported mothers and their infants across the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
A culture of care and service
Martinus wanted to be closer to where people lived and worked. For this reason, the company began to open shops in major cities and some of the larger provincial towns.
To help those in smaller towns, Van der Hagen sent out ‘travelers’ to select suitable partners. Not every potential partner made the grade but those that did were given careful guidance on how to run their businesses.
Nutricia extends its portfolio
Before long, Nutricia was using its unique combination of dairy and medical know-how to expand into new and innovative fields of health. In developing a low-lactose milk for diabetes patients and the first nutritional product for those suffering from goitre (a thyroid condition linked to a lack of iodine in the diet), the world was introduced to the very first medical nutrition product.
Acquisition of dairy factory in Cuijk
Success dictated change and to keep up with demand for its specialized nutrition products, as well as make room for the latest in manufacturing technology, Nutricia moved its main (powder) production facilities (from van der Hagen’s original factory) to the N.V. Cuijk’s Dairy Factory. For almost a 100 years, this remained Nutricia’s centre of excellence for producing specialized nutritional solutions for infants and young children with special dietary needs.
First Research facilities
Nutricia sets up its first research team with laboratories for baby and medical nutrition in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands.
Introduction of Nutrition News
After more than 50 years working at the forefront of specialized nutrition, Nutricia had gathered a wealth of information on the importance of specific nutrients during infancy, and for managing ill health during a child’s early years – through to adulthood.
Always looking for opportunities to share knowledge, Nutricia introduced in 1950 a dedicated team of dieticians who - armed with the latest research - travelled around the Netherlands and to other countries educating healthcare professionals on the role of specialized nutrition.
Introducing a consumer care line
Dedicated to going the extra mile for the people who use its products and for those who care for them, Nutricia’s consumer Care Line opened in 1986, managed by qualified dieticians.
This free Care Line support that Nutricia offers, is still an important service for consumers, carers and healthcare professionals today, helping those who have a question to ask or a problem to share - however big or small - in The Netherlands as well as in many countries around the world.
First prototype intestinal simulation model
As a company rooted in nutritional science, our scientists are always looking for ways to better understand how the nutrients we consume through our diet are digested by the body.
This ambition led to the creation of an intestinal simulation model, developed in collaboration with academic & scientific partners. A breakthrough in nutritional sciences, the simulation model was the first of its kind in the world.
The use of this model allowed Nutricia’s scientists to unlock a world previously unknown to them, and to apply this knowledge to the development of new and innovative nutritional solutions.
Danone acquires Royal Numico
An important year for Royal Numico when it became part of Danone, resulting in Danone becoming a world leader in health and nutrition across all life stages. The acquisition of Royal Numico reinforces Danone’s mission of bringing health through food to as many people as possible.
New sustainable Nutricia plant
Danone opens a new sustainable Nutricia plant in Cuijk, the Netherlands, to meet the growing, global demand for specialized infant formula. The new Nutricia plant is a state-of-the-art, sustainable, zero-waste facility, powered with 100% renewable electricity. The €240 million investment is among Danone’s largest in its European production network in the last ten years.