Stakes & Innovations
The R&D programmes of Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition seek to create new scientific insights in the nutritional requirements of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, infants and young children.
Early life nutrition is a cornerstone of the food revolution. It’s the basis, the starting point in helping children get off to a good start in life and build their health capital for the future.”
Babies go through an incredible period of growth and development during their first 1000 days, which sets the blueprint for their lifelong wellbeing. We believe that helping mums and babies around the world get the right nutrition during this critical period - from conception to two years old - is a crucial step towards improving global health.
Research from UNICEF and WHO indicates that the double burden of malnutrition - over- and under-nutrition - is a significant problem throughout the world. Through our focus on research, product development and education, we strive to innovate in the field of early life nutrition to ensure that we improve lifelong health for as many people as possible.
First 1000 days
The mission of Danone’s Nutricia Early Life Nutrition is clear: “We make every day count, for you and your baby.” The division wants to create a better future for today’s children, promote and protect breastfeeding, and seek to ensure that infants and young children get the best possible nutrition in their first 1,000 days, which are crucial for lifelong health.
From conception through to 24-36 months, children live in an environment where food, home, family and cultural habits shape their development. Some children grow up in difficult environments where they do not have the best chance to become healthy and strong. Danone is responding to this challenge by committing to help create better conditions for building, maintaining and protecting infant health.
Danone Nutricia ELN has embraced the first 1,000 days as critical to the well-being of mothers to-be and their babies. Our pledge(1) is to protect and promote breastfeeding through very strict marketing practices and support for breastfeeding programs.
In recent years, the division has supported young parents by encouraging them to sign up for online educational programs. From nutritional insights to tools for monitoring performance and personalized coaching on diet, our content has been co-developed with scientists and healthcare professionals. The facts are there, but not universally known: young children need five times more iron and four times more calcium per kilo of body weight than adults. And introducing cow’s milk into an infant’s diet too soon, or preparing meals with too much sugar or salt, can trigger health problems and nutritional deficiencies.
(1)“Danone’s Commitment to Health and Nutrition in the First 1,000 Days,” July 19, 2016, available here.
During pregnancy, the nutritional requirements of expectant mothers increase. For instance, the need for iron, folate and iodine rises with 50%. These nutrients nourish the fetus while its organs develop and allow the mother to build up her body stores that are essential for optimal breastfeeding.
In Indonesia, our Nutriplanet study showed that six in ten women suffer from malnutrition. and other studies show that 30% of cases of infant mortality are linked to poor prenatal diets. Sari Husada, a Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition subsidiary in Indonesia, has launched an educational campaign to increase awareness of the importance of good nutrition for pregnant women. Working with Indonesia's gynaecology association, the subsidiary developed SGM Bunda - a nutrient-fortified beverage available at an affordable price.
Cow & Gate in the United Kingdom offer personalised support for mums. Pregnant women and mothers can access a unique set of services and information focused on early life nutrition - including a 24/7 careline, website and Facebook page These services have been extended to healthcare professionals, particularly midwives, general practitioners and paediatricians.
Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition supports the WHO’s public health recommendation in favour of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, and continued breastfeeding up to 2 years along with the gradual introduction of safe and suitable solid foods.
Breastfeeding mothers need an adapted diet during this period, to meet their high nutrient demand. Several decades of breast milk research have given us a wealth of knowledge about the composition and benefits of breast milk. Through new scientific insights, we now better understand how the diet of a breastfeeding mother influences her own health and the composition of her milk.
Where breastfeeding is not an option, infant formula is the only suitable sbsitute and should be used under advice of a healthcare professional.
Since the foundation of Nutricia in 1896, we have been pioneering the development of infant milk formulas and follow-on formulas to feed infants for whom breast milk was not available. Over the years, we introduced many innovative formulas based on our research in this field.
From around six months of age, appropriate complementary foods should be progressively introduced, ideally while mothers continue to breastfeed up to 12 months and beyond. Complementary feeding is an important step in transition to solid foods, e.g. offering the appropriate textures for each developmental stage of a child. Our research showed that variety and exposure can have an impact on eating habits later in life, such as acceptance and liking of vegetables.
We believe that sensory experiences are the key to successfully broadening a baby's diet, which is why we include trained chefs in our research teams. For instance, in Blédina, our experts balance respect for traditional recipes with the regulatory and nutritional requirements (e.g. salt, sugar and fat content) and work to obtain the best flavour and consistency, as close as possible to the fresh product.
During toddlerhood, children have specific nutritional requirements not only to fuel their rapid growth, but also because they metabolise nutrients differently from adults. Children’ nutritional needs vary greatly from those of adults during this period. For example, a toddler needs 7 times more vitamin D, 5.5 times more iron and 4 times more calcium than an adult, per kg body weight.
A regular family diet may not always satisfy their requirements for iron, zinc, vitamin D and essential fatty acids. High levels of protein and salt in adult diets can also pose nutritional challenges for young children.
Providing Young child formula as part of a balanced diet can effectively address these nutritional needs. Recent research using our fortified milks has been shown to supports normal function of the immune system and reduces the risk of infection in young children.
Our research programs address all key scientific topics in early life: maternal nutrition and physiology during pregnancy and breastfeeding, composition and health benefits of human milk. We also study the development of gut function, microbiota, immune system, brain and metabolism of infants and young children.
Our two research centers, and other innovation facilities across the globe, bring together 400 passionate employees with a variety of expertise representing over 35 nationalities. Recognized for the high quality of their scientific expertise, some of our principle scientists hold academic chairs at leading universities.
Our product development specialists and process technology experts translate scientific concepts into actual products to be manufactured at industrial scale. During the process, our sensory scientists and packaging experts ensure the products we deliver provide a high quality consumer experience.