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Britain bids goodbye to Ovaltine

Novartis's Ovaltine ends production in Britain Keystone Archive

The Swiss healthcare group, Novartis, is to stop production of its branded malt drink, Ovaltine, in Britain, nearly a century after it began producing the beverage at its factory in Hertfordshire.

This content was published on April 4, 2001 - 10:48

After 88 years the Basel-based healthcare group is transferring production from Hertfordshire in southern England to Neuenegg in Switzerland. The move will be made by May 2002 and will mean the loss of 240 jobs.

Although Ovaltine is considered by many Britons to be part of their national heritage, it was in fact invented in Switzerland in 1904 and is also consumed around the world. Last year, nearly 10 million jars of the bedtime drink were consumed in Britain. In continental Europe the drink is more commonly known as Ovomaltine.

Kevin White, chief executive of Novartis Consumer Health UK, was quoted by Britain's Financial Times newspaper as saying that "Neuenegg has been chosen as the site to produce Ovaltine because it is a more modern plant with the capability to produce a wider range of products".

The factory in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, was set up in 1913 to serve the British market with sales boosted by the launch of the Ovaltiney Club, a sponsored programme broadcast by Radio Luxembourg.

The programme was compulsory listening for a whole generation of Britons, and the club's song "We are the Ovaltineys" ranks as one of the most successful advertising jingles.

Millions of children joined the club and were issued with cards, badges and secret codes.

swissinfo with agencies

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