1898 : Daniel Gerber Born, Manufacturer of Baby Food

When:
May 6, 2020 all-day
2020-05-06T00:00:00-04:00
2020-05-07T00:00:00-04:00

Daniel Frank Gerber (May 6, 1898 – March 16, 1974) was an American manufacturer of baby food.

Gerber began urging his father to begin the production of strained baby foods at the family cannery in 1927. Daniel and his wife Dorothy had an ill baby named Sally. Dan’s wife suggested that he persuade his father to begin making and selling at their canning company strained baby foods. Gerber with his father did some extensive research on this new concept. They contacted nutritional experts, distributed many samples, and conducted market research interviews before launching their product. The idea of strained baby foods was not entirely new, but the long-held American tradition was that babies generally were given a liquid diet until they were about a year old. It was risky to introduce this new concept to the marketplace as they had no idea how mothers would react to this new idea. This enterprise became the Gerber Products Company.

In 1928 their canning company started an advertising campaign in Good Housekeeping, Parents Magazine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and other magazines. Their task was to convince parents to adopt new feeding concepts. The campaign worked and into the 1930s the canning company expanded its baby food lines.

At Gerber’s death in 1974 the company claimed it was the world’s largest baby-food manufacturer.

Some people think Dorothy Scott Gerber, Daniel’s wife, should get credit for developing the baby food operations.  Tired of straining foods for her own children, it occurred to her that if the Fremont Canning Company could puree tomatoes, it could also puree fruits and vegetables. Fremont was the predecessor to Gerber Products; the name was changed in 1941.

Mrs. Gerber, a native of Ithaca, Michigan, who married Daniel Gerber in 1923, liked the resulting strained fruits and vegetables and, more important, so did her 7-month-old daughter Sally. The new baby food was priced at 15 cents, which until then had been obtainable largely through drug stores at 40 to 60 cents each. Word quickly spread of the new baby food products, and grocery stories avidly stocked them. Initial offerings included  strained peas, carrots, spinich, prunes, and vegetable soup.

In 1928, Gerber sponsored a contest to find a baby picture to use in their ads.  The winning sketch was submitted by Dorothy Hope Smith.  Ann Turner, the adorable baby in the sketch, would become known as the Gerber baby.

In 1939, Gerber introduced the first baby food cereal.

In 1951, Gerber becomes the first baby food company to advertise on television..

In 1963, Gerber introduces the safety button cap to help mothers determine whether products had been tampered with and was one of the first companies to use the “Better if Used Before” date on their products.

In 2007, Nestle acquired Gerber, which was only appropriate since Henri Nestlé, a pharmacist, was asked to look in on a neighbor’s child who couldn’t breastfeed. The baby thrived on the special mixture Henri created. Soon, Nestlé’s innovation—the world’s first infant food—was being sold throughout Europe, and the first infant food company, Farine Lactée Henri Nestlé, was launched in 1867.

Sources:

Daniel Frank Gerber wikipedia entry

Gerber History and Heritage website