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Title: Ovomaltine  
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Ovaltine (Ovomaltine)
Type Malted dairy drink
Manufacturer Associated British Foods or licensees
(Nestlé in the United States)
Country of origin Switzerland
Introduced 1904
Variants Chocolate Malt, Malt, Rich Chocolate
Related products Hot chocolate, Nesquik, Horlicks

Ovaltine (Ovomaltine) is a brand of milk flavoring product made with malt extract (except the blue packaging in the US), sugar (except in Switzerland), and whey. Some flavors also have cocoa. Ovaltine, a registered trademark of Associated British Foods, is made by Wander AG, a subsidiary of Twinings which acquired the brand from Novartis in 2003, except in the United States, where Nestlé acquired the rights separately from Novartis later on.


Ovaltine was developed in Berne, Switzerland, where it is known by its original name, Ovomaltine (from ovum, Latin for "egg," and malt, which were originally its main ingredients). Soon after its invention, the factory moved out to the village of Neuenegg, a few kilometers west of Berne, where it is still produced.

Ovomaltine was exported to Britain in 1909; a misspelling of the name on the trademark registration application led to the name being shortened to Ovaltine in English-speaking markets. A factory was built in Kings Langley, which exported it to the United States as well. By 1915, Ovaltine was being manufactured in Villa Park, Illinois, for the US market. Originally advertised as consisting solely of "malt, milk, eggs, flavored with cocoa," the formulation has changed over the decades, and today several formulations are sold in different parts of the world.

The popular chocolate malt version is a powder which is mixed with hot or cold milk as a beverage. Malt Ovaltine (a version without cocoa) and Rich Chocolate Ovaltine (a version without malt) are also available in some markets. Ovaltine has also been available in the form of chocolate bars, chocolate Easter eggs, parfait, cookies, and breakfast cereals, where it is the only brand name that connects the cereals with the chocolate drink.

Ovaltine also manufactured PDQ Chocolate Flavor Beads, PDQ Choco Chips and Eggnog Flavored PDQ, which are no longer available. These drink mixes were very popular from the 1960s to the 1980s. Ovaltine discontinued the PDQ products around 1995 or 1996.

The US children's radio series Little Orphan Annie (1931–1940) and Captain Midnight (1938–1949), and the subsequent Captain Midnight TV series (1954–1956), were sponsored by Ovaltine. They had promotions in which listeners could save proofs-of-purchase from Ovaltine jars to obtain radio premiums, such as "secret decoder ring" badges, or pins that could be used to decode messages in the program. Children from the time may remember that "Ovaltine" is an anagram for "Vital One".

Another radio program aimed at five- to fourteen-year-olds, The League of Ovaltineys, was broadcast to Great Britain by Radio Luxembourg on Sunday evenings at 5:30 PM. Beginning in 1934, it was broadcast until 1940 and the German occupation of Luxembourg, and again after World War II ended into the 1950s. Like the US program, listeners could obtain badges, pins, and secret codes. The Ovaltineys' advertising jingle was regarded as one of the most successful jingles of the era.[1]

Villa Park, Illinois, was home to the Ovaltine factory in the United States until the company's purchase and withdrawal in 1988. The Villa Park Historical Society maintains a permanent exhibit of Ovaltine advertising and memorabilia. The old factory was converted to loft apartments keeping the original floors and wall exposed.

In 1992 Himmel Group obtained the right to make and sell Ovaltine in the US from Sandoz Nutrition Corporation. In 2007, Himmel sold their rights to Novartis. Presently Nestlé has the rights.[2] With this purchase, Nestlé immediately ceased Ovaltine's previous television advertising campaign targeted to older and nostalgic audiences, where Ovaltine was presented as more nutritious than former competitor Nesquik, and though it is still sold widely in the United States, Ovaltine is currently not advertised on American television.

International appeal

Ovaltine was also very popular in Britain, and was manufactured at Kings Langley in Hertfordshire using a process that included GEA Wiegand falling film evaporators to concentrate liquid malt extract which was then dried under vacuum in steam heated band dryers. The art deco style Ovaltine factory in Kings Langley is a well-known local landmark. Production ceased in 2002 and the factory has now been redeveloped as luxury apartments. Near the factory was a health farm run by the Ovaltine works which was set up as a model farm and a health resort for disadvantaged children, which operated until the 1960s. Later the farm land was sold and is now largely occupied by the M25 motorway. The Ovaltine Egg Farm is now the site of Renewable Energy Systems Ltd. and the site of the first wind turbine visible from the M25.

In October 2002, the food and drinks division of Novartis, the maker of Ovaltine, was bought by Associated British Foods. ABF currently produces Ovaltine in Switzerland, China and Thailand. In the United States Nestlé manufactures Ovaltine, using a trade dress in cursive writing instead of print.

In Hong Kong, Ovaltine, like Horlicks, is known as a café drink. It is served at cha chaan tengs as well as fast-food shops such as Café de Coral and Maxim's Express. It is served hot, or on ice as a cold drink. In Hong Kong, the powder is sold without sugar, to be sweetened to taste by the consumer. In Brazil, it is commonly mixed with vanilla ice cream. In the Asian market, it is a chocolate ice cream flavoured with Ovaltine powder. The Ovomaltine brand is highly recognizable in Switzerland, and the brand is associated with skiing and snowboarding.

In Malaysia, Ovaltine has lost its popularity to Nestlé Milo. Ovaltine is sold in tetra packs for cold serving and widely available in shops and supermarkets, yet it has a low profile compared to similar beverages in the market. In Japan, Ovaltine was sold for a short period in the late 1970s by Calpis Industries (presently Calpis Co., Ltd.), but it was not a commercial success. In Australia, Ovalteenies are sold as round tablets of compressed Ovaltine, eaten as candy.

Brazilian fast-food chain Bob's, the largest competitor to McDonald's in that country, offers, since 1959, milkshakes and sundaes made with Ovaltine, where it goes by the name of "Ovomaltine", which became a flagship product of the fast-food chain in Brazil. Brazil has the second largest Ovaltine factory, in São Paulo, and is the second largest consumer market for the product, after Thailand. The Brazilian Ovaltine is unlike any other in the world, originating from an assembly line malfunction that made the powder crispier that is still maintained today.[3]

In popular culture

  • In 1947, Harry Gibson's song "Who Put the Benzedrine in Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine" was popular on the radio. Ovaltine is mentioned in at least three songs from Broadway shows — "Marry the Man Today" from Guys and Dolls, "You're the Top" from Anything Goes, and "Go Into Your Trance" from High Spirits. ("You need no drinks, you need no smokes, you need no aspirin in your Cokes — No benzedrine in your Ovaltine — Just go, go, go into your trance.")
  • Ovaltine and its advertisements are one of the relics of Previous society in Jasper Fforde's novel "Shades of Grey".
  • One of the segments of A Christmas Story has Ralphie anxiously decoding the secret message on the Little Orphan Annie radio program, only to discover it's no more than an encouragement to drink Ovaltine. He responds, "A crummy commercial!"
  • Ovaltine is mentioned in the intentionally nostalgic song "Do You Remember These?" by the Statler Brothers. ("Dancin' close, little moron jokes, and cooties in her hair Captain Midnight, Ovaltine and The Whip at the County Fair...")
  • The song "Mankind" by Pearl Jam also mentions Ovaltine ("I'll be playing with my magazine, using up my Listerine, like Ovaltine").
  • Ovaltine was mentioned by the British crime fiction writer Patricia Wentworth in several of her novels about Miss Silver. The beverage is usually taken by heroines before they go to sleep.
  • In the film Young Frankenstein, Frau Blucher asks Dr. Frankenstein if he would like something to drink. He says no. She offers him a short list of things, concluding in Ovaltine, which he also refuses.
  • In the fifth season finale of Supernatural (TV series), after killing several demons with his mind, Lucifer asks Sam "chock full of Ovaltine are we?".
  • In "The Fatigues" episode of Seinfeld, one of Jerry's acquaintances and struggling comic, Kenny Bania, played by Steve Hytner, reads an attempt at observational humor that Jerry wrote for him: "Why do they call it Ovaltine? The jar is round; the mug is round. They should call it 'roundtine'."
  • Ovaltine is mentioned in Wole Soyinka's play The Trials of Brother Jero.
  • Nas mentions "Ovaltine shakes" in "Play on Playa" on the album Hip Hop Is Dead.
  • Ovaltine is mentioned in Dennis Potter's "The Singing Detective" in the sentence by sister White: "Coffee or Ovaltine?".
  • Ovaltine is mentioned in the song "Ovaltine" by Vellarest. "From my beach house on the beach I owe it all to - Ovaltine."
  • In the novel Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Olivia "Liv" Durand mentions Ovaltine to Ethan when she tries to explain where she is from.
  • Ovaltine is mentioned as a beverage favored by the school nerds in the episode, "The Wicked Stepbrother (1)" of Saved by the Bell.
  • In the movie The Sandlot, Scotty Smalls makes a glass of Ovaltine.

See also


External links

  • Culinary Heritage of Switzerland database.
  • Official site (French) (German)
  • UK Ovaltine site
  • USA Ovaltine site
  • Villa Park Historical Society's Ovaltine Exhibit
  • by Brendan I. Koerner

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