Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Why Not Call It "Roundtine"?

by Connie Cortright

Since our country was started by people from Great Britain, we have many things in common with them, or ideas borrowed from them. In the early 1900s, they shared a favorite chocolate drink with children here when Ovaltine was exported to our country.

But, to quote Jerry Seinfeld: Why not call in Roundtine? The jar is round. The mug is round. Why do they call it Ovaltine?

Ovaltine was originally invented in Switzerland by Georg Wander as he was trying to find a way to boost the nutrition level of undernourished poor children. He extracted the malt from barley, added vitamins and nutrients and made it into a nutritious drink. His son Albert, knowing that the mixture needed to have more flavor to appeal to people, added sugar, whey protein and eggs to the mixture naming it Ovomaltine. It was sold as a hot energy booster drink at the ski resorts in Switzerland and became an instant hit. The chocolate flavoring was added later.

This product was exported to Britain in 1909, but a misspelling in the trademark registration caused the name to be changed to Ovaltine.  Our British friends then exported this newly named drink to our country in 1915. It was promoted as a nutritional drink for children when added to hot or cold milk.

As with other products, the marketing of this product took off during the 1930s when the owners of the company promoted Ovaltine on children's radio shows in Britain and the US. "The League of Ovaltineys" was broadcast to children in Great Britain during this time, recruiting them to be "Ovaltineys". By listening to the radio program and purchasing Ovaltine, the children could earn badges, pins, and secret codes. The sale of the product soared because of this.

I don't remember drinking Ovaltine as a child, but I'm sure glad that we didn't have the League of Ovaltineys in our country. Our parents/grandparents probably have all been caught up in this fad like so many other fads that come and go. But this type of advertising works. Great Britain had more than five million Ovaltineys during the 1930s.

In the US, Ovaltine sponsored "Little Orphan Annie" radio program during the 1930s to broaden the purchasing power. Finding that using radio programs to sell a product got results, they sponsored "Captain Midnight" in the 40s. As the media changed from radio to television, Ovaltine followed the trend sponsoring the "Captain Midnight" TV series during the 1950s. They also instigated the free give-aways of secret decoder rings, badges and pins to sell more of the product.

I remember drinking Nestle's Quick as a child when we were allowed to have a chocolate flavored drink. That was the big competition for Ovaltine. Do you have any memories you'd like to share about Ovaltine?

Information taken from Wikipedia-Ovaltine and A Brief History About Ovaltine


  1. I remember hearing about Ovaltine as a child but don't ever remember my mom buying it for me to drink. Either she never did or I wasn't impressed LOL. I remember Nestle's Quick and Hershey's Cocoa mix.

  2. Same here. Maybe Ovaltine hit its peak before we were kids.