At the end of the nineteenth century one in five infants died before the age of one. Mothers who were unable to breastfeed used wet nurses – women hired to breastfeed other women’s children – or cow’s milk to feed their babies. The composition of cow’s milk was not appropriate for feeding infants and, at that time, could be a source of disease contributing to high infant mortality across Europe.
In 1894 Professor Alexander Backhaus from Germany, succeeded in developing an infant formula that approached the composition of human milk, in his laboratory. This meant that many new-born babies could now be saved.
At a medical conference in Berlin in 1896, he presented his invention to an international audience of doctors among whom was Dr. Johannes van der Hagen, a medical doctor and Dutch Public Health Inspector. Johannes went straight to his brother Martinus van der Hagen – a born salesman – and owner of a margarine and dairy products factory in The Netherlands. They both saw a great future for the dairy products factory.
They met with Professor Backhaus and he granted the rights to manufacture Backhaus first infant milk formula, to Martinus van der Hagen. The Nutricia name was adopted in 1901 and quickly gained popularity becoming known as “The Wet Nurse of The Netherlands.”
Following this success Nutricia pioneered the concept of specialized nutrition and in 1906 developed special diet products such as low-sugar milk for diabetic patients and iodine-rich milk for those suffering from goitre. In the modern era Nutricia has focused more intensely on developing research-based specialized nutritional solutions to help people around the world live longer, more joyful and healthier lives.
Professor Backhaus patent for the world’s first infant formula milk, filed in July 1896.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nutricia sets up its first research team with laboratories for baby and medical nutrition in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.