“More Ovaltine please!”

Parents breathe a sigh of relief whenever their children take that rare liking to something that is actually good for them. And, for many years now (longer than the broadcast of radio in this country), Ovaltine has sold itself as a vitamin-rich beverage with a flavor that every kid loves. Truth be told, maybe not every kid, but enough of them to sell millions of jars of the powdered drink mix.

The product was originally called Ovamaltine when it was created in Switzerland at the turn of the century. Manufactured in England by Associated British Foods, it soon made its way across the pond to America. Then, in 1915, a new factory in Illinois was opened to keep up with the demand from thirsty consumers. Today, the U.S. version of Ovaltine is a product of the Nestlé Corporation.

Ovaltine can be served hot or cold and is somewhat of an acquired taste, as not everyone has an affinity for the flavor of malt. The reason cocoa was added to the original recipe was to help make the beverage more appealing to the masses. For those who really don’t like malt, the new “Rich Chocolate Ovaltine” contains none at all. Or, if you really like malt, but don’t like chocolate, “Malt Ovaltine” is right up your alley.

Ovaltine was prominently featured on the radio shows, Little Orphan Annie and Captain Midnight, who offered kids the opportunity to get their very own “secret decoder ring” by sending in a proof of purchase from a jar of Ovaltine.

Fans of the movie A Christmas Story are sure to remember Ralphie’s fixation (and eventual disappointment) with his Ovaltine decoder ring. Howdy Doody and Clarabelle also served as faithful spokesmen for the chocolate drink.

Children of the 60’s and 70s may also remember jars of little pebbles of milk flavoring called PDQ. This product was also manufactured by Ovaltine. Sadly, they discontinued it in 1995, much to the dismay of its loyal followers (even old commercials for the product are seemingly non-existent).

Meanwhile, Ovaltine thankfully remains much as it always has – perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, and perhaps not quite as popular as it once was, but still a much healthier alternative to soda and without doubt, a shared part of our collective childhood.

For every kid who grew up gulping down a cold serving of Ovaltine or two, one sip is still all it takes to transport you back to a time where a walk home from school, or the need for a quick breakfast, usually led to pulling out the milk and the jar to mix up a refreshing glass of Ovaltine.

If Ovaltine was a part of your childhood routine, whether you loved or loathed it, we hope you’ll share your recollections with us in our comments section.

3 Responses to “Ovaltine”

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  1. Joan Stearns says:

    I have many happy memories of drinking warm as well as cold Ovaltine as a child. My brother and I carefully translated the secret code messages daily hovered in front of the console radio. We were convinced the “yellow eye” on the radio could see us I still have a jar on the pantry shelf for nights when I can’t sleep. It always works;zzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

    Joan Stearns 76 years old!

  2. roxanne says:

    My stepdad still has his Captain Midnight secret decoder badge somewhere in the attic….He said most of the codes said “Drink Ovaltine” or something to that effect…

  3. TOM says:

    Does anyone remember making a crystal radio out of an Ovaltine container in the early 50s?

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