Sanitarium celebrates 125 years of serving goodness

Since 1898, Sanitarium Health Food Company has been nourishing Aussie families with affordable healthy foods, educating people to eat well and move more, and giving food to communities in need. On its 125th birthday, the Australian-owned company has reaffirmed its commitment to make a positive impact on the nation’s health.

“We believe healthier choices support the potential for every Australian to live a long and healthy life,” said Sanitarium CEO Kevin Jackson.

 “Sanitarium was founded with the core purpose of helping Australians to eat well and live well. This purpose remains just as important today, particularly as families struggle with the growing impacts of lifestyle-related chronic diseases, food insecurity and cost-of-living pressures."

 “That’s why we’re strengthening our commitment to make access to healthier choices easier for more Australians. We’ll do this through the affordable healthy foods we make, increasing our investment in health education, and by doing more to develop food and nutrition security for all,” said Mr Jackson.

Healthy food for a healthy nation

Sanitarium is one of Australia’s most trusted food companies with products including Weet-Bix™, So Good™ and UP&GO™ found in 2 in 3 households. Ninety percent (90%) of Sanitarium products carry a 4 to 5 Health Star Rating.

“We have an enduring commitment to make great-tasting and convenient foods, that most importantly represent good value nutrition. Getting this balance right is critical in making a sustainable difference to the health of our nation,” said Sanitarium’s leading dietitian Shane Landon, APD.

Mr Landon points to Sanitarium’s iconic cereal Weet-Bix as an example of this commitment in action. 

“The nutritional impact of Weet-Bix can’t be under-estimated. Found in 1 in 2 homes, it is a significant source of wholegrains in the Australian diet. In fact, one bowl of Weet-Bix (2 wheat biscuits) provides 60% of a person’s daily wholegrain needs, plus fibre, B vitamins and 25% of their iron needs – from as little as 20 cents per serve. It’s quality nutrition, delivered at immense scale, for more than a century.” 

Caring for everyone

Last year alone Sanitarium donated more than 4.2 million serves of goodness to the community through a network of charity partners, headlined by Foodbank Australia. Entering its 22nd year, Sanitarium’s support for breakfast programs in Australian primary schools is one of the Company’s most significant food and nutrition security initiatives.

“Over the last two decades, Sanitarium has provided more than 20 million serves of Weet-Bix, So Good and Sanitarium spreads to help give Aussie kids the nutrition they need to learn and play throughout the school day,” said Mr Jackson.

 “We’re always ready to help Australians doing it tough, donating food to communities impacted by natural disasters, and providing ongoing support to food pantries who offer a lifeline to people in need.”

Promoting healthy lifestyles

For 125 years, Sanitarium’s production of healthy foods has gone hand-in-hand with its investment in health education.

“Our goal has always been to give all Australians access to the knowledge, resources and skills they need to make healthier choices. In 1901 we opened Australia’s first health food cafes which served food education and cooking classes alongside nutritious plant-based foods,” said Mr Jackson. 

“We shifted into more modern forms of education in the late 1980’s with the formation of our Nutrition Education Service which published health research and produced health and food education materials for the community. In the decade that followed, we launched the Weet-Bix Kids TRYathlon to lift physical activity rates among primary school aged children, with a nationwide event series held annually around Australia until 2020.

“Today, millions of Australians visit the Sanitarium website every year for dietitian-approved plant-based recipes and nutrition advice, and we’re excited to see our new partnership with Life Ed improving the quality of healthy eating and physical activity education in Australian primary schools,” said Mr Jackson.

Where it all began

Sanitarium began in a neighbourhood bakery in Northcote, Melbourne, after a small group of Seventh-day Adventists migrated from Battle Creek, Michigan bringing foods made by Dr John Harvey Kellogg for patients at his health institute. In January 1898, Edward Halsey, who had trained with Dr Kellogg, commenced making the Company’s first ready-to-eat cereals, including Granose wheat biscuits - a forerunner to Weet-Bix - and Sanitarium Peanut Butter. Sanitarium was registered as a business on 27 April 1898.

Within a decade, Sanitarium had expanded to open health food cafes around Australia and had launched Australia’s first plant-based meat-alternative, Nuttose. When the fledgling food company made its first profits in 1906, it donated them to support health education in the South Pacific Islands. 

Transforming eating habits

It can be said that Sanitarium changed Australia’s eating habits. Sanitarium was the first to introduce breakfast cereals, pioneered innovative soy foods and promoted plant-based eating long before it became popular. 

Sanitarium is now one of the largest Australian-owned food companies, employing 1000 people across six Australian sites and exporting products to almost 40 countries. Its head office is at Berkeley Vale on the Central Coast of New South Wales. 

“In 1898, our founders set out to make a positive impact on the nation’s health. They were motivated by a great sense of purpose, underpinned by their desire to serve the community, and ultimately care for people. This same purpose continues to ignite the passion in our Sanitarium team today and we remain determined to support Australia to address the food-related health challenges of the 21st century,” said Mr Jackson.

Last updated Thursday 27th April 2023