I don’t know how much this dates me, but I can recall being a kid and watch­ing Saturday morn­ing toons inter­spersed with com­mer­cials for Nestle’s Quik.

They intrigued me not so much because of that obnox­ious rab­bit, but because they actu­ally seemed to make claims that Quik was healthy. Add it to milk to make it more tasty — and hey, there are extra vit­a­mins too! I was pretty sure my par­ents wouldn’t fall for it. They didn’t.

We actu­ally had some of the stuff for a while, but there was no pre­tense what­so­ever about its health mer­its. It was a choco­late fla­vor­ing added to the milk; it had noth­ing to do with increas­ing the food value. After a while we started using Hershey syrup instead.1

While pok­ing through an archive of adver­tis­ing that spans from 1932 to 1969, I stum­bled across some mate­ri­als that seem to indi­cate Nestle’s strat­egy was hardly new. For instance, this:


Jean used to hate drink­ing milk but now she begs for it! One won­ders if, amongst its addi­tives that made milk “70% more” nutri­tious, Cocomalt didn’t con­tain some Vitamin N.2 Or if maybe Mommy just decided to stop feed­ing lit­tle Jean for a week or so. How do you like your milk now, huh, lit­tle Jean?

Yeah, I thought so.

As it turns out, though, Cocomalt had it easy. Would you drink some­thing like this?

Vitavose. Vitavose, from a com­pany called Squibb. The only way to make it less attrac­tive would be to say it was made using the sterisep­tic process for extra clean­li­ness, packed into indi­vid­u­ally cleansi-sol’d con­tain­ers to ensure absolute pro­tec­tion from every malady.

Really. Vivatose.

Squibb takes a dif­fer­ent angle from Cocomalt — they aren’t try­ing to claim milk tastes bet­ter, but that Vivatose con­tains vit­a­min B, which they say is essen­tial for appetite.

Oh? Do we have some research to back that up?

I thought not.

Give him Chocolate Vivatose instead of ordi­nary choco­late milk drinks. It’s so much bet­ter for the children.

And for God’s sake, won’t some­one please think of the children?

The undis­puted king of milky nos­trums, though, is surely Ovaltine.3 And boy did they not hold back. From 1933:

“Spindle-​​Shanks” — he hated milk and couldn’t put on weight. Nice. Ovaltine was another prod­uct that claimed it stim­u­lated appetite, though in this par­tic­u­lar ad it doesn’t say how.

When were metham­phet­a­mines dis­cov­ered, again?4

I won­der how many kids saw this ad in Good Housekeeping, saw them­selves as being den­i­grated by Spanky and Our Gang in panel 1, and decided life wasn’t worth liv­ing and they’d be best suited to a joy­less exis­tence as a bank clerk or accountant.

Of course the strong, healthy boys ended up going to war less than a decade later, and a hell of a lot of them didn’t come back. Thanks, mom. And thanks, Ovaltine.

Nonetheless, as odi­ous as these prod­ucts might have been (Quik is the only one I had any expe­ri­ence with, and if it’s typ­i­cal the oth­ers didn’t taste foul, just odd), it could have been worse, I sup­pose. Far worse. And for some kids I fear it was.

Mint fla­vored? Really? In the name of all that’s holy, why?5

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1. So you could think of Quik as being the gate­way drug, I guess.

2. The same vit­a­min found in prod­ucts made by RJR.

3. Not the least because they’re still in busi­ness, and they still make health claims. (And are owned by Nestle, who still make Quik. Coincidence?)

4. 1894.

5. I don’t mean why the mint fla­vor­ing, so much as why drink the stuff at all?

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