In 1903, Harry C. Moores and Stanley M. Ross founded the Moores & Ross Milk Company in Columbus, Ohio. For the first twenty-two years of the company's existence, it focused on bottling milk for home delivery. Beginning in 1925, the company's founders began a new experiment. A scientist named Alfred Bosworth had created an infant formula with a milk base. Moores and Ross began producing and selling this new formula, which the two men originally called "Franklin Infant Food." Two years later, the formulas name was changed to Similac. The new product was so successful that the company sold its regular milk operations to Borden in 1928 and changed its name to M & R Dietetic Laboratories. The restructured business focused on infant formula.
M & R Dietetic Laboratories marketed its product in an innovative way. Rather than solely focusing its attention on the consumer, the company's advertising also targeted medical doctors. Although company spokesmen acknowledged that breast milk was best for babies, they argued that Similac could provide a healthy alternative if breast milk was not available. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, Similac had become the most widely used infant formula in the United States. The Columbus factory was no longer adequate for the products demand, and M & R built a second facility in Sturgis, Michigan. In 1956, the company created Ross Laboratories to continue its experimentation with improvements in infant formulas. In addition to marketing various versions of Similac, the company also marketed itself as an expert on infant care.
During the 1960s, the company continued to grow. In 1961, the business opened its first overseas factory to produce Similac in Zwolle, The Netherlands. Ross Laboratories merged with Chicago-based Abbott Laboratories in 1964, and in the next few years began branching out beyond the traditional baby formula. The company began producing vitamins, a soy-based infant formula for children who were intolerant to cow's milk called Isomil, and an electrolyte solution called Pedialyte. In 1973, Ross Laboratories introduced a nutritional supplement for adults called Ensure.
The company has continued to focus on creating formulas and nutritional delivery systems for infants and adults who have health problems in the decades since. Continuing to grow, Ross Laboratories reached one billion dollars in sales for the first time in 1986. Two years earlier, the company opened another plant in Casa Grande, Arizona, to keep up with American demand for its products. In the 1990s, Ross Laboratories also became involved in a number of educational outreach programs, focusing especially on infant and pediatric nutrition and immunizations.