For American parents, the baby formula aisle is a strange and scary place. There are a lot of brands, a lot of different cans, and there’s no good way to know which one’s the best.
Most of those cans of formula in US stores have one fatal flaw: they aren’t organic.
That might not seem like a huge deal, but tiny bodies are very sensitive. There’s a lot of concern in the medical community, especially outside the US, that genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), pesticides, and herbicides can all have an effect on a baby’s body, particularly their nervous systems and brains.
For this reason, many American parents turn to European brands of formula to get organic, high-quality food for their little ones.
The two best-selling brands are HiPP and Holle. The biggest question is which one should you get for your infant? In this short blog, we’ll take a look at them side-by-side to help you decide.
Why choose European formula brands?
There are a number of reasons for American parents to look to Europe for baby formula. There are two very significant problems that many parents have: ownership and sugar.
Ownership – The owners of the largest baby formula brands in the US aren’t food companies, but pharmaceutical companies. Since they specialize in drugs, not food, their formulas tend to read like a list of chemical additives, not food-derived nutrition.
Sugar – A look at the ingredients on, for example, Similac NeoSure, a US formula brand, shows the second ingredient as “corn syrup solids.” In other words, sugar. Since it’s not actual sugar, but a corn syrup-derived sweetener, it doesn’t have to be listed as a sugar, but that’s exactly what it is. European brands use lactose, the sweetener that’s in human breast milk, rather than a cheaper, artificial sweetener.
Both HiPP and Holle are certified organic by the European Commission. This is part of the EU government that’s tasked with guarding the safety and purity of foods, drugs, and other things in the EU. While similar to the Food and Drug Administration in the US, it tends to have stricter standards, especially where organic definitions are concerned.
Both Holle and HiPP are certified organic, contain no GMO’s, and provide transparent information on sourcing of ingredients.
All Holle formulas are EU-certified organic. They are also Demeter Biodynamic Certified, a certification for biodynamic farming. This is a more in-depth certification that takes into account animal welfare, biodiversity, ecosystem preservation, and more. Combined, Holle meets the most stringent standards in the world for “organic” and “natural” formulas.
HiPP is EU-certified organic, except for a few speciality formulas. Because their sensitivity formulas contact protein hydrolysates and this ingredient is not available in an organic form, those formulas aren’t 100% organic. Every other ingredient in the formula is organic, so they are still very high-quality formulas.
Both of these formulas use added protein to raise the protein profile to the level that baby needs.
Breast milk is 40% casein protein and 60% whey proteins, whereas cow’s milk is 80% casein and 20% whey proteins. Formula companies add whey protein to balance it out. Because casein proteins can be difficult to digest, sensitive formulas use 100% whey protein.
Holle uses a goat’s milk base. This is because it’s easier to tolerate than cow’s milk for many babies. The proteins are smaller and more easily digested. Holle adds goat’s milk whey to its formula to bring the protein content to the level of breast milk.
HiPP uses cow’s milk and also adds whey protein to bring the protein ratio up to that of breast milk. Their Hypoallergenic formula uses hydrolyzed milk protein to reduce possible reactions in babies. Their Anti-Reflux formula uses 100% whey protein, which is a little easier for babies to digest.
DHA, ALA & ARA
For 2020, European requirements changed and manufacturers need to add DHA, ALA, and ARA to their formulas. These fatty acids are important for baby’s brain development, among many other things.
Both Holle and HiPP have begun adding fish oil- and vegetable oil-derived fatty acids to their formulas.
HiPP has changed its formula to include DHA, choline, vitamin D, and other micronutrients. The ratio and ingredients vary by stage, with more varied fatty acids in the earlier stages, with more DHA included in later stages.
Holle uses fish oil to provide long-chain fatty acids in their cow’s milk formulas and algae-derived oils for their goat’s milk formulas. Now their formulas have DHA, ALA, and LA to provide better levels of nutrition.
Both brands meet the new stricter, more detailed guidance put out by the European Commission. Of course, all ingredients are 100% organic.
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics are chemicals and bacteria that help maintain good gut health. This helps reduce indigestion, colic, boosts the immune system, and can reduce many skin and health disorders.
HiPP adds prebiotics to all of their formulas and introduces probiotics in their anti-reflux and hypoallergenic formulas.
Holle doesn’t add these ingredients. They maintain a short, clean list of ingredients.
Converting from metric (milliliters) to imperial units (ounces) can be difficult.
Once you make the conversion, you find that the European brands are, on average, only about $0.05 more per ounce than their American competitors. Because you might have to pay shipping, this price can change, but it’s still not too far outside the grasp of most parents, particularly since it’s usually only for a year or so of baby’s life.
The Least You Need to Know about HiPP vs Holle
Deciding between these two formulas can be difficult. They are both very high-quality, typically much higher than most American brands.
Both are organic (with a few small exceptions) and are designed to be as close to breast milk as possible.
Holle offers a few different formulas based on the country. The biggest difference is that the Holle German formula adds a starch as an ingredient that does not appear in the Dutch or UK formulas. This has no effect on taste, nutrition, or digestibility.
Holle uses goat’s milk in many of their formulas because it’s closer to breast milk. HiPP offers cow’s milk, but it is also very digestible.
How to Choose between HiPP and Holle?
In truth, both products are far superior to their American counterparts, even if only for the fact they’re organic. Both provide complete nutrition and health.
The choice is personal. Goat’s milk or cow’s milk, prebiotics or not, etc.
In fact, there’s really no way to go wrong with either HiPP or Holle. It’s a matter of trying the two and seeing which brand baby likes best.