The Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition (HSUHN) at the University of Reading was founded in October 1995 with the appointment of Christine Williams OBE as the first Hugh Sinclair Chair in Human Nutrition. This was made possible by the competitively won funds from the estate and legacy of the late Professor Hugh Macdonald Sinclair (1910–1990). The vision for the newly established HSUHN was to ‘strengthen the evidence base for dietary recommendations for prevention of degenerative chronic diseases’. This has remained the research focus of the HSUHN under the leadership of Professors Christine Williams (1995–2005), Ian Rowland (2006–2013) and Julie Lovegrove (2014-present). Our mission is to improve population health and evaluate mechanisms of action for the effects of dietary components on health, which reflects Hugh Sinclair's life ambition within nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, the HSUHN has developed an international reputation within the nutrition science community, and in recognition of the 20th anniversary, this paper highlights Hugh Sinclair's contributions to the field of nutrition and key research achievements by members of the Unit.