Ovaltine was developed in Berne, Switzerland, where it is known by its original name, Ovomaltine (from ovum, Latin for "egg", and malt, 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; it was a misspelling in the trademark registration that led to the name being shortened to Ovaltine in English-speaking markets. A factory was built in Kings Langley which exported 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 only the brand name that connects the cereals with the chocolate drink.
Ovaltine also manufactured PDQ Chocolate Flavor Beads, PDQ Choco Chips and Egg Nog Flavored PDQ, which are no longer available. These drink mixes were very popular from the 1960s to the 1980s. Ovaltine discontinued the PDQ products about 1995 or 1996.
The US children's radio series Little Orphan Annie (1931–1940) and Captain Midnight (1938–1949), and the subsequentCaptain 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, like "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.
Villa Park, Illinois, was home to the Ovaltine factory 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 Nestle has those rights. With this purchase, Nestle 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.
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