The earliest malted hot beverage was not a chocolate drink at all – Horlicks was invented in Chicago in 1873 by British-born William Horlick and his brother James. And so it fell to a leading cocoa maker to make the first malted hot chocolate with Fry launching Malted Cocoa in 1880.
In 1904 Swiss chemist Dr George Wander developed a way to combine malt with milk, egg, and cocoa to create Ovaltine. A small factory was built in 1913 to produce Ovaltine in the UK, and this grew rapidly.
By 1928 Rowntree was working on a product called Solvita, but later launched its malted cocoa and milk drink under the brand name Fortak.
In 1929 Horlick's launched its Chocolate Flavoured Malted Milk, sold in glass bottles inside a brown carton.
The famous Ovaltine song was first used on Radio Luxembourg in the 1930s:
We are the Ovaltineys, happy girls and boys,
Make your request we'll not refuse you, we are here just to amuse you,
Would you like a song or story, will you share our joys?
At games or sports we're more than keen, no merrier children could be seen,
Because we all drink Ovaltine we're happy girls and boys.
Bourn-vita was launched by Cadbury's in 1932, made from full cream milk, eggs from British farms, British malt and Empire cocoa. It was discontinued in the UK in 2008.
In 1934 Vitacup was a renewed attempt by Rowntree's to enter the malted cocoa market. Also in 1934, Australian industrial chemist and inventor Thomas Mayne developed Milo – made from milk powder, malt barley, sugar and cocoa.
Malted hot drinks remained highly popular throughout the twentieth centurey, and competition between manufacturers became fierce. In 1971 even the one and only Muhammad Ali was brought over for a tour of the UK with Ovaltine. Its television advertisements were lighthearted musical affairs, variously featuring a missionary about to be cooked by cannibals, and a train stuck on a snowy mountain, in each case saved by the heroic young lady, Ovaltina, bearing drinks.
Chocolate Ovaltine made its first appearance in 1997.
EXHIBIT - SEALED AGAINST GAS
Fry developed a new malted cocoa in 1931 - Fry’s Malted Milk Cocoa with Eggs. It described this as solid food in liquid form, and as the meal you make in a cup. Later it hit on the phrase ‘four foods in one’, and eventually decided that this would make a good product name. As a wartime product, including artificial sweeteners to save sugar, 4-in-1 was given a tape seal around the lid to protect the contents from gas attacks.
EXHIBIT - VITA CUP
Vita-Cup (only briefly with a hyphen) was considerably cheaper and designed to compete with Ovaltine and Horlicks.
EXHIBIT - MANCHESTER 1942
Jenner’s Foods joined the fray with Jenner’s Chocolate Flavoured Food Drink from 1942 for a couple of years. Although the advertising reckoned that “50 years test has proved it the best”.