Ever Wander how Ovaltine came to be in Kings Langley?

One of the many original drawings produced by in house artists to advertise Ovaltine.
One of the many original drawings produced by in house artists to advertise Ovaltine.

In 1865 – the year which saw the end of the American Civil War, Joseph Lister’s first antiseptic surgery and the foundation of the Salvation Army – there was also something brewing in Switzerland.

That’s where a chemist called Dr George Wander set up a laboratory in Berne to investigate the nutritional values of barley malt.

He was so impressed with its qualities, especially as a food for children, that he began the manufacture of malt extract and eventually launched the food drink that would become known around the world as Ovaltine.

Wander hoped that the drink would help to reduce the high infant mortality rate.

Ovaltine was based on the vitamin-rich properties of malt extract and, combined with milk, eggs and cocoa, it became recognised as an ideal combination of essential nutrients in a delicious and satisfying warm drink.

Ovaltine first went on sale in Switzerland in 1904 and then, in 1906, was made available on the UK market.

In 1910, a British company was set up to handle the sale of the successful product, and eventually to run UK-based manufacture.

Kings Langley was chosen as the site for the UK factory after being identified as an ideal location – as well as a plentiful supply of water it had good transport links and suitable farmland for the supply of barley, fresh eggs and milk.

It also had a large enough population to supply workers for the factory.

Ovaltine was at the forefront of advertising, utilising new techniques when they became available.

Ovaltine was one of the first brands to be promoted when commercial television launched in 1955, but by then it was already well-versed in the benefits of commercial broadcasting.

Two decades earlier, in 1935, it had launched The Ovaltineys, a family radio show which aired on Radio Luxembourg. The theme song We Are The Ovaltineys became one of the most famous jingles of all time., and the tune is still familiar today

By 1939 there were more than million members in The Ovaltiney League.

Mrs Barbara Markovitz of Berkhamsted was an Ovaltiney and remembers collecting badges and magazines and cheerfully singing the famous song.

The programme went off the air when Radio Luxembourg stopped broadcasting at the outbreak of the Second World War.

But once the war was over it was back on the air in 1946, and continued on for several more years.

The club re-launched in the late 1960s with comedians Morecambe and Wise as its presidents.

The company expanded its nutritional knowledge and their products to include Ovaltine instant milk, drinking chocolate, teething rusks and even Contour low calorie meals.

It is now owned by Associated British Foods.

In 2002, the Kings Langley factory produced its last jar of Ovaltine, after nearly a century of continuous production.

Parent company Novartis relocated back to Switzerland and the historic Ovaltine collection came to The Museum Store.

Although Ovaltine is no longer produced in Dacorum, commuters on the trains to and from Euston can still see the famous art-deco façade.