Our heritage

A rich heritage of Life-Transforming Nutrition


In 1896 an entrepreneurial approach to the latest nutritional science led to the establishment of Nutricia, changing the lives of millions of people around the world. 


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.

  1. UTP Journals Vincent J. Knapp. See obituary on p. 407. CBMH/BCHM / Volume 15: 1998 / p. 317-36
  2. 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

Timeline from 1896 onwards