The origins of Materna

The origins of Materna

Few companies can claim a history that has always been so closely associated with infant nutrition, as Materna can. The brand entered the market in 1951 under the leadership of a Swiss pharmaceutical company. At the time, that company marketed powdered baby milk and mini-bottles of natural fruit juices under its own name which were sold exclusively in pharmacies.

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Four decades later, the course of history accelerated for Materna under the joint leadership of a French entrepreneur specialized in the food business, and Lact’union, a dairy cooperative that federates more than 550 dairy farmers in Picardy and Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. Together, they sensed that the baby milk segment would change rapidly in response to modern lifestyles and parents' growing expectations for baby nutrition.

They acquired Materna in 1995. Having become an independent family-owned business with solid regional roots in northern France, the newly created entity went on to gradually assert itself as a strong European player in liquid (ready-to-feed) baby milk and prepared food for babies and toddlers aged 0 to 36 months. Today, this pair of shareholders still presides over Materna's future and plans to continue exporting its know-how across the globe.

Materna now has more than 60 years of experience helping three generations of parents make the right choices in baby nutrition. From the Baby Boomers to Generation Z, millions of babies have grown up on Materna’s baby food expertise.

Dedicated to the baby food industry

Though the Materna brand gradually withdrew from pharmacy shelves in the 90s, it remained a dynamic company whose know-how, experience and professionalism would lead it to work increasingly with large retailers and subsequently with major national brands.

Initially, Materna broadened its scope of business by introducing a range of growing up milks under private labels, and then added prepared baby foods. In close partnership with its customers, Materna never stopped developing innovative products, both in terms of recipes and formulas and in terms of packaging suitable for early childhood.

Its success prompted Materna to build a new factory called “Babynov” near Compiègne in 1999 to meet rising demand, but also as a strong statement of the company’s intrinsic values:  an organization wholly devoted to baby food and to constant innovation. In addition to the different bottled growing up milks that Materna produces with its cooperative, the company significantly bolstered its capabilities in the prepared baby food segment by offering fruit and vegetable purees, full meals and milk-based dessert creams.

Generating innovation

Materna quickly grew, backed by the deep and abiding trust of its retailers and food industry customers. It never lost the determination to be a forerunner in quality while keeping an eye out for new trends and not hesitating to blaze a trail into emerging market segments. In addition to strengthening its manufacturing capabilities in 2006 with two new production units, Materna set up a development center devoted to innovation and new products.

This entrepreneurial vision quickly led to major innovations such as the first frozen baby foods in France and the first baby foods in the chilled food section. Materna was an industry pioneer, offering rigid plastic packaging followed by flexible packaging in response to modern consumer lifestyles, all while preserving the food’s nutritional qualities.

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Dynamic and harmonious growth

This ability to be more than a simple subcontractor for a broad range of products, to be a genuine specialist and partner committed to its customers, recently led Materna to write a new chapter in its dynamic history: always with the goal of keeping pace the best in the baby food market, Materna began carrying out a series of major investments.

In 2011, Materna inaugurated a new Babynov factory at Montigny-Lengrain entirely devoted to prepared baby foods with a long shelf life in rigid and flexible plastic packaging. With its hundred employees, three fully automated production lines and cutting-edge manufacturing techniques for the baby food industry, the factory gives the company sufficient capacity to respond to its customers’ requirements quickly and with the usual high level of quality.

At the same time, Materna continued to expand by opening a second new factory at Abbeville, France in 2012. With its 35 employees, the “Babydrink” factory is devoted exclusively to the manufacture of ready-to-use bottled baby milk for infants and toddlers.  In just two decades, Materna has turned itself into a reliable, innovative, high-value-added partner for the world’s major baby food companies backed by a unique web of regional milk producers in Picardy and Nord-Pas-de-Calais.