HiPP vs. Holle Formula: An Unbiased Comparison
HiPP Combiotic and Holle baby formulas are two of the best-selling and most popular baby formulas on the market, especially HiPP Dutch and Holle Stage 1.
But which is the best baby formula for your family? We tested both options and pulled together the data on ingredients, nutrition, farming and manufacturing practices, infant acceptance and tolerance, sensitivity, and pricing.
In combination with our own reviews of the two products and our summary of parent reviews, we hope this helps you decide whether HiPP or Holle is the better option for your child!
What makes us unbiased? We do not manufacture, distribute, or sell baby formulas. For that reason, we have no allegiance to any manufacturer and we don't need to worry about offending HiPP or Holle with our (brutally?) honest opinions!
HiPP vs Holle: Overall Conclusions
On Reddit, they like to say tl;dr, or "too long; didn't read" - in other words, save me the time and just give me the results!
The overall result is that HiPP is better than Holle in terms of nutritional profile, tolerability and sensitivity, and price. However, Holle is better than HiPP in terms of simplicity, ingredient sourcing, and sustainability.
Here's what it boils down to:
✔️ HiPP Formula is better for newborns and infants with sensitive stomachs who may experience gas, spit-up, constipation, diarrhea, or colic when trying other formulas. Stage 1 and 2 HiPP Combiotic formulas contain both prebiotics and probiotics to aid with digestion, and use an easy to digest skim milk as the first ingredient. Together, these aspects can be very helpful for infants who need a more sensitive formula.
✔️ Holle Formula is better, especially the Holle Pre and Stage 1 varieties, for parents who value the relative simplicity of Holle formulas, traceable ingredient sourcing, animal welfare, and sustainability. However, it is a bit more expensive than HiPP, not the best for infants with sensitive stomachs, and stages 1+ contain maltodextrin.
Below we outline how we arrived at this conclusion, and our comparison of ingredients, nutrition, farming and manufacturing practices, tolerability and sensitivity, pricing and availability, and parent reviews.
Ingredients in HiPP and Holle Formulas
Infant formula is one of the most strictly regulated food products on the market, and for good reason. Parents want to be sure they are feeding their infants the best possible ingredients during the most formative time of their lives.
HiPP baby formulas are available in three varieties: HiPP Dutch, HiPP German, and HiPP UK. While we like all these varieties, we think HiPP Dutch is the overall best for most parents. You can learn why in our HiPP baby formula review. For this comparison, we focus specifically on the HiPP Dutch variety, Stages 1-3.
The Dutch HiPP Combiotic is available in three Stages suitable for different phases of development: Stage 1 for 0-6 months of age, Stage 2 for 6+ months, and Stage 3 for 12+ months.
The Holle formula is available in five Stages suitable for different phases of development: Stage Pre for 0+ months of age, Stage 1 for 0+ months, Stage 2 for 6+ months, Stage 3 for 10+ months, and Stage 4 for 12+ months.
Which has the better ingredients?
✔️ HiPP is better for carbohydrate sources, especially given the added maltodextrin in Holle Stages 1-3.
✔️ HiPP and Holle are Similar for protein sources, with both using milk and whey powder. All HiPP and Holle formulas use skim milk except for Holle Pre, which uses whole milk.
✔️ HiPP and Holle are Similar for fat sources, with both using palm oil, rapeseed oil, and sunflower oil in all stages.
✔️ HiPP is better for prebiotics and probiotics, with Holle containing neither.
✔️ HiPP and Holle are Similar for Omega fatty acids, with both including healthy fish oil (DHA) and plant oil-based ALA and LA.
Carbohydrates: All three stages of HiPP Combiotic use skim milk and lactose is the primary carbohydrate. In comparison, Holle also uses lactose as the primary carbohydrate (and whole milk in Pre or skim milk in Stages 1-3), though Stages 1-3 add maltodextrin as a carbohydrate.
Proteins: Breast milk contains about 60% whey protein and 40% casein proteins, making that 3:2 whey to casein ratio ideal for formula-fed babies. Formulas with a higher casein content can be more difficult to digest. HiPP Combiotic Stages 1 and 2 contain added whey protein, but Stage 3 does not. In comparison, Holle also adds whey protein, and it is included in all stages (Stages Pre-3). For both HiPP and Holle, the whey to casein ratio is very good.
Fats: All three stages of HiPP supply additional fats with palm oil, rapeseed oil, and sunflower oil. In comparison, Holle uses palm oil, rapeseed oil, and sunflower oil.
Prebiotics and Probiotics: A unique selling point for the HiPP baby formulas is their inclusion of both prebiotics (Galacto-Oligosaccharides from lactose) and probiotics (Lactobacillus Fermentum) to help your child maintain a happy gut. Note that the EU is likely introducing new prebiotic and probiotic regulations for formula, and we'll update this article when we learn more.
Omega Fatty Acids: Both HiPP and Holle formulas provide Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, including LA, ALA, DHA, and EPA. Both varieties include fish oil. DHA is a mandatory ingredient in the EU for infant formulas.
For ingredients, therefore, HiPP wins by a small margin. Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate with a very high glycemic index, meaning that it is quickly and easily digested but also a poor energy source. Research at the Cleveland Clinic suggests that maltodextrin causes blood sugar spikes and may not be great for maintaining healthy flora in your gut microbiome.
Nutrition Comparison of HiPP versus Holle
Nutritional composition is very similar between HiPP and Holle in terms of basic macronutrient and micronutrient profiles.
For macronutrients, both HiPP and Holle meet international food standards established by the World Health Organization for macronutrient content. Per 100kcal of formula, these regulations are as follows:
Carbohydrates: Minimum of 9g, maximum of 14g. HiPP Stage 1 has 11g, Holle Stage 1 has 11.5g.
Proteins: Minimum of 1.8g, maximum of 3.0g. HiPP Stage 1 has 1.9g, Holle Stage 1 has 2.1g.
Fats: Minimum of 4.4g, maximum of 6.0g. HiPP Stage 1 has 5.3g, Holle Stage 1 has 5.1g.
Notice how close HiPP versus Holle are to one another in terms of all three macronutrients. If anything, Holle has slightly higher carbohydrate and protein levels in comparison to fats. This difference is rather negligible.
✔️ HiPP and Holle are Similar for macronutrient composition: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
For micronutrients, including not only vitamins and minerals but also Omega fatty acids and prebiotics and probiotics, both HiPP and Holle meet WHO international food standards. As you know, HiPP includes prebiotics and probiotics, while Holle does not.
Note that international food standards dictate that infant formulas contain at least 300mg of linoleic acid (LA, Omega-6) and 50mg of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA, Omega-3).
Both HiPP and Holle meet these fatty acid standards, with HiPP containing 604mg LA and 90.6mg ALA, and Holle containing 906mg LA and 77.5mg ALA.
HiPP also includes ARA (Omega-6) and DHA (Omega-3), whereas Holle also includes DHA but not ARA.
HiPP contains prebiotics and probiotics, but Holle does not. Prebiotics in HiPP are intended to act like the oligosaccharides in breast milk, stimulating lactobacillus and bifidobacteria growth.
✔️ HiPP is slightly better for its micronutrient profile, with an additional Omega-6 (ARA), and prebiotics and probiotics.
However, it's important to note that many parents don't appreciate the addition of ARA in the HiPP formulas, which is in the form of Mortierella Alpina Oil. Furthermore, while prebiotics derived from lactose are generally accepted in infant formulas, probiotics are more controversial. Therefore, while HiPP is slightly better than Holle for its micronutrient profile, some parents might not appreciate how they achieved this.
Farming & Manufacturing at Holle and HiPP
If you've read our full Holle formula review, you know how impressed we are with Holle's ingredient sourcing, farming practices, animal husbandry, and sustainable farming and manufacturing practices.
Holle is based in Germany and sources its milk only from organic and Demeter-certified farms in the EU, which comply with a very stringent set of practices involving annual certification and maintenance.
The dairy cows on these farms are permitted to graze freely on rich biodynamic pastures, and are treated humanely without de-horning or high stress. This results in higher quality and better-tasting milk, with a fantastic macro- and micronutrient profile. These are the milks used in Holle formulas.
If you've read our full HiPP formula review, you know that HiPP sources its milk from mixed sources throughout the EU. While these farms must conform to stringent EU organic food regulations and are very likely providing high quality milks, they are not necessarily rigorously monitored and evaluated like the Demeter farms used by Holle.
✔️ Holle is better for ingredient sourcing, animal welfare, and sustainable farming.
Both HiPP and Holle also conform to rigorous manufacturing standards and employ hundreds of quality checks conducted by themselves and independent certification institutes. We are confident that both HiPP and Holle have high manufacturing quality, highly reliable formulations, and undergo frequent and strict inspection for trace chemicals and heavy metals.
✔️ HiPP and Holle are similar for complying with, and often exceeding, modern manufacturing standards and practices.
Note that while Holle may have higher quality ingredient sourcing, there is no evidence that this translates to any specific advantage of their formulas in terms of nutrition or trace chemicals. Also, note that not all HiPP formulas are certified organic, particularly their specialized formulations such as hypoallergenic (HA), anti-reflux (AR), and Comfort options.
Tolerance & Sensitivity of the Formulas
Holle Stage Pre is a whole milk formula like Kendamil, so it can be relatively difficult to digest. Holle Stage 1 uses skim milk and shows high acceptance, tolerance, and digestibility.
Because all HiPP stages contain prebiotics and probiotics, and use skim rather than whole milk, they show very high tolerability for newborns and infants.
✔️ HiPP is better for overall tolerance and sensitivity, especially for children with difficulty digesting baby formulas.
Tolerance and sensitivity is where HiPP reigns supreme: in our testing, the Dutch HiPP Combiotic formulas show very high acceptance by infants, tolerance in terms of gas and spit-up, and sensitivity for children who tend to show GI distress after feeding.
Pricing & Availability
In our European baby formula price comparison table, you will notice that HiPP tends to cost about $1.65/ounce when purchased in single packages (usually 800g), with discounts in bulk that get the price down to about $1.40/ounce. Note that you can use our coupon code mommyhood101 at Organic Start for 10% off of HiPP formulas!
✔️ HiPP is better for price, coming in at about 8% cheaper than Holle. On average, that will likely save you about $10 per month on formula by using HiPP instead of Holle.
Holle is a bit more expensive than HiPP when purchased in single packages, coming in at about $1.80/ounce. There are decent discounts when purchasing in bulk, bringing the price down to about $1.60/ounce. Note that you can use our coupon code mommyhood101 at Organic Start for 10% off of Holle formulas!
Both HiPP and Holle are widely available, and neither tends to go out of stock at major suppliers.
Parent Reviews of Holle and HiPP
To aggregate parent reviews, we considered ratings and comments collected from three popular companies selling European baby formula: Organic Start (New York, NY), Little Bundle (formerly Huggable, Sparks, NV), and My Organic Company Store (Los Angeles, CA).
While parent ratings may be filtered or otherwise altered by these companies, they provide a good indication of overall parent opinions about HiPP and Holle.
We focused on Stage 1 Dutch HiPP, and Stage 1 Holle. From a total of 201 votes cast, HiPP receives an average rating of 4.86 out of 5 stars. From a total of 450 votes cast, Holle receives an average rating of 4.91 out of 5 stars. That difference is negligible (statistically and practically speaking), showing generally high satisfaction for both HiPP and Holle.
When parents are negative about Holle, they tend to use terms like Gas and Constipation.
When they are negative about HiPP, they tend to use words like Excessive Bowel Movements and Occasional Spit-Up.
This difference makes some sense given that HiPP should lower gas and constipation (given its use of prebiotics and probiotics), but possibly lead to more bowel movements than usual.
Another little note is that Organic Start appears to have a more heterogeneity in the reviews, whereas other sites seem to have a very skewed distribution (with a more disproportionate number of 5-star ratings) for all formulas they sell. There could be some review inflation at some sites, likely due to rejecting or deleting negative reviews. We have no evidence that is the case with any of the sites, but keep that in mind.
HiPP vs Holle: Our Overall Thoughts
If this were a tournament, HiPP has 5 wins going for it, whereas Holle has 1. They tied in 5 of the competitions.
Five for eleven is a pretty good win record for HiPP, with Holle coming in at only 1 for eleven, and 5 draws!
However, your determination of whether HiPP or Holle is better for your child is likely more nuanced than that.
While HiPP does have additional Omega-6 (ARA) and prebiotic and probiotic content, not all parents are comfortable with these ingredients, wanting a simpler formulation.
Holle is certainly a simpler formulation than HiPP, maintaining all the essential nutritional characteristics of government regulations, while not adding anything additional. In fact, Holle prides itself on not including any artificial DHA or ARA sources in their formulas, citing the potential dangers of DHA and ARA extracted using hexane. Not only that, but we believe that Holle adheres to a higher standard when it comes to milk sourcing, agricultural practices, animal welfare, and sustainability.
HiPP does have a leg-up in terms of tolerability in more sensitive tummies, and also comes in at a marginally better price.
Overall, HiPP definitely wins this competition overall, but Holle will be more appealing for parents who desire relative simplicity, traceability and accountability, and sustainable agricultural practices.