The Ovaltine Egg Farm, 1930
Until I saw this advert, I didn’t realise that eggs used to be a vital component of Ovaltine. They even had their own egg farm next to their original factory in the UK, based in Kings Langley, and which they used in the advertisements. “Malt, milk and eggs, flavoured with cocoa,” was how they described it. Today Ovaltine is owned by Twinings and has ditched the egg, apart from the “may contain traces of egg” disclaimer. As all food adverts were apparently compelled to do from around 1850-1950, the claimed nutritional value was paramount.
Eggs, and the associated implication of nutritional value, were indicated in its original name of Ovomaltine which references “ovo” for egg, and malt. It was invented in Switzerland in 1904 and is still called that there – amusingly, the reason for its name change to Ovaltine in the UK in 1909 was apparently because of a spelling mistake on the trademark application.
It was a household name of a brand thanks especially to the “The Ovaltineys” radio programme. It ran from 1935 until 1952 on Radio Luxembourg, with a break while the station closed for the duration of the Second World War. It might have ended over 20 years before I was born, but even I know the “Ovaltineys” jingle as sung by The Beverley Sisters.
In 1953, the brand got more positive publicity for its nutritional value when Sir Edmund Hilary took Ovaltine with him on his expedition to climb Mount Everest. Now, I associate it more with a soothing, warm-milk-to-help-you-sleep, kind of effect, rather than climbing mountains.
I’m always a fan of Art Deco buildings, and the Kings Langley factory is a beautiful example. It closed in 2002, and now it’s been converted into flats, but with the same listed façade. And where the The Ovaltine Egg Farm was based is now the site of Renewable Energy Systems Ltd.
The company doesn’t make it very clear where it’s manufactured for the UK now. But it does have some more vintage Ovaltine ads available on their website, which are worth a look.