“More Ovaltine please!”
Parents tend to sigh in relief whenever their children take a liking to something that also happens to be nutritionally sound. 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 to sell millions of jars of the powdered drink mix over the years.
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 and, by 1915, a factory in Illinois was opened to handle the demand from American consumers. Today, the U.S. version is made by Nestlé.
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. In fact, cocoa was added to the original recipe to help make the beverage more appealing to the masses. Today, for those who really don’t like malt, the new “Rich Chocolate Ovaltine” contains no malt 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. And, for every kid who grew up drinking glasses full of this parent-pleasing concoction, 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 a cold 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.