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A Brief History About Ovaltine

Feb 26, 2008
You may never have actually tasted it, but chances are you've heard of it, and chances are that you've also wondered, along with millions of children in the past century, "What is that Stuff?"

Ovaltine is a chocolaty drink made from malt extract. In the late nineteenth century, a Swiss scientist named Georg Wander invented a process of easily extracting a nutritious syrup from malted barley of the sort used to make beer. Wander believed that he had discovered, in his malt extract, a possible solution to the scourge of malnutrition, or at least a healthful supplement to the average diet.

Perhaps he had, but the problem was that no one was interested in eating Dr. Wander's goo. His son Albert, however, realized that if he mixed the malt extract with sugar, whey, beet extract, and eggs, people would be interested in at least trying the stuff. Albert marketed his product as a powder and called it "Ovomaltine," from the eggs (in Latin, ovo) and malt it contained.

Served hot as an energy drink at Swiss ski resorts, Ovomaltine was an instant hit and was subsequently exported all over Europe. When it hit the U.K. in 1904, it was sold under the shortened name Ovaltine, and it was Ovaltine that shortly thereafter took America by storm. By this time, the chocolate flavor of Ovaltine had crowded out all the other varieties, and it was advertised as the hot chocolate drink that was good for you.

Ovaltine was a huge success on both sides of the Atlantic largely because of an aggressive and clever advertising campaign of sponsoring children's radio shows. In the U.K. in 1939, more than five million children were members of a club based on a radio serial called The League of Ovaltineys. In the United States, Ovaltine sponsored both Little Orphan Annie and Captain Midnight, as well as several popular TV shows in the 1950s. And for Mom and Dad, folklore held that Ovaltine, mixed with raw eggs, was a powerful aphrodisiac.

Further marketing resounded the facts that Sir Edmond Hilary had Ovaltine during his Mount Everest expedition, and that Muhamad Ali was a promoter of the brand.

Sadly, as the Ovaltine generation aged, sales slumped, and Ovaltine has in recent years been passed from one owner to another. Perhaps most tellingly, it appears that Ovaltine, once touted as a high-energy pick-me-up, is now viewed by the public as a bedtime sleep aid.
About the Author
Angela Abbette writes on a variety of subjects, including about articles food and drink articles similar to the ones found at her favorite free article publishing directory.
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