Digestive Health

Supporting healthy digestive systems for happy babies.

Digestive health shouldn't be taken for granted

‘Digestive Discomfort’ is a common health issue that impacts people at all life stages. 

Parents often report this as a key concern for their babies and young children. Although the range of digestive discomfort symptoms differ with each child, these are usually easily identifiable (Refer to diagram below).  


Symptoms of digestive discomfort can cause distress for both babies and caregivers, by potentially impacting a baby’s sleep patterns, bowel movements and crying times. This can drive parents to seek information on the causes and potential solutions. This makes infant digestive health one of the most discussed topics by parents online.

Why we’ve chosen to focus on digestive health

SureStart™ ingredients help to address ‘Digestive Health’ as a key focus area, because we know it is a key concern for parents.*  

Babies can be highly sensitive to anything they eat because they have less mature digestive systems. Having a higher stomach pH and less effective digestive enzymes, impacts digestion of certain nutrients, such as protein. This can cause the digestive discomfort symptoms described above.


Breast milk is the ideal way to feed a baby. However, when a baby is unable to be breastfed or a mother chooses not to, a suitable infant formula which supports digestive function is important to support nutrient absorption and immune function.  Parents will look for paediatric nutrition solutions which support digestive comfort.

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Digestive discomfort is a key driver of brand choice

Our consumer research shows that colic, spit-up or regurgitation, and constipation are the most common symptoms of digestive discomfort.1 For parents of formula fed-infants, digestive discomfort symptoms are a key driver of brand switching.


Parents whose infants experience digestive discomfort often change formulas without consulting healthcare professionals. Even when advice from healthcare professionals is sought, formula switching can be a common recommendation.


This means brands have an opportunity to improve market share by offering solutions that support digestive comfort. These solutions rely on manufacturers using appropriate and proven ingredients in their formulations.

The SureStart™ range offers a number of ingredients specially designed to support developing digestive systems, and have been shown to help improve digestive comfort outcomes for formula-fed babies.

77% of new products launched by market leaders are focused on digestive comfort

Source: Innova Customised Fonterra Research 2016
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SureStart™ Whey Protein Hydrolysate 917

Research into SureStart™ WPH 917 suggests it may alleviate some symptoms of digestive comfort to provide the following benefits:

  • Gas and bloating may be reduced due to WPH 917’s low lactose content2.

  • Constipation may be eased because WPH 917 increases intestinal transit and gastric emptying rates compared to standard infant formula3.

Regurgitation and spit up may be reduced with WPH 917 (Koopman et al, 2009); Dallas et al, 2012).

Additionally, SureStart™ WPH 917 delivers a superior amino acid profile and improved flavour compared to some alternatives (see Diagram).


Source: Fonterra sensory panel evaluations.

SureStart™ Organic Galacto-oligosaccharide Syrup

  • Our organic GOS is sourced from the United Kingdom through Fonterra Europe.

  • It is 100% milk-derived and has been manufactured from organic lactose4 using an enzymatic reaction.

  • These processing techniques ensure high nutritional and functional properties, meaning our GOS is a good source of DP3+ soluble fibre5.

  • This nutritional ingredient can be added to infant formula for infants <12 months of age.

  • SureStart™ Organic GOS complements our regular product by providing customers with more choice to meet changing consumer needs, such as more natural positioning.

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Our Gut Health Research programme and the development of Hydrolysates

Our Gut Health Research Programme involves numerous collaborators and health providers with preclinical and clinical expertise.

The objective of our research is to determine benefits of our ingredients and the mechanisms underlying these benefits.

Our major focus is gut motility and the impacts of milk proteins.

Currently we are completing a major six-year collaborative study looking at the effect of several ingredients on various parameters of gut structure, function and health.

This involves the use of in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo models.

Preliminary results indicate our hydrolysate range may have digestive comfort benefits compared to intact casein, intact whey protein concentrate and hydrolysed soy protein.

How probiotics can support the immune system and gut health in infants and young children. 

Probiotics show promise in boosting immunity and reducing respiratory tract infections in infants and young children. 

LactoB HN001™ immune benefits during early life. 

Health benefits of prebiotic GOS for infants and young children. 

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  • [1] Fonterra Mothers & Health Care Professionals (HCPs) consumer research 2011 and 2012; NNB Fonterra Research
  • [2] Berseth et al, 2009; Savino et al, 2003; Vandenplas et al, 2014
  • [3] Dalziel et al, in Preparation
  • [4] DP refers to ‘degree of polymerisation’. DP3+ indicates that our GOS contains oligosaccharides with an average chain length of three or more linked saccharide units.
  • [5] The organic lactose used in GOS manufacture has been approved by the United Kingdom’s Organic Farmers and Growers, and the China Organic Food Certification Center.

Explore our other Focus Areas 

We develop scientifically backed ingredients that evidence shows support brain development and cognition.

Optimal growth requires optimal nutrion.

We define ‘Protection’ as supporting babies’ digestive and immune systems to help them defend against illness.

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