Horlicks is a sweet malted milk hot drink developed by founders James and William Horlick. It was first sold as "Horlick's Infant and Invalids Food", soon adding "aged and travelers" to their label. In the early 20th century it was sold as a powdered meal replacement drink mix.
It was then marketed as a nutritional supplement and manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline (Consumer Healthcare) in the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Jamaica.
Alternative word usage
"Horlicks" is usually taken to be a substitute for the profanity "bollocks". This use was exploited by the company in a 1990s advertising campaign, in which a harassed housewife exclaims "Horlicks" in a context where a stronger term could have been expected, thus widening the term's exposure and usage for a while.
This substitution in the form of a singular noun is also used to refer to a minor disaster or shambles, as in "to make a complete horlicks of something". For example in July 2003 British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described irregularities in the preparation and provenance of a dossier regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as "a complete horlicks".
In March 2018, former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine, criticizing Prime Minister Theresa May's management of Brexit issues, declared to the Observer: "...we have made a complete Horlicks of the Irish border".
The main ingredient is sugar (around 44%). Other ingredients include wheat flour, malt extract, malted barley, milk solids, minerals, salt, vitamins, protein isolate. The formulation can vary in different countries.
- Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future serial sponsored by Horlicks in 1952 and heard Monday to Friday at 7:15 p.m. over Radio Luxembourg.
In 1961, Horlicks ran a television advertising campaign that featured Scottish entertainer Billy Raymond and an actress. The theme of the advert was "Horlicks – the food drink of the night."
Around the world
In Hong Kong, Horlicks is known better as a café drink than as a sleeping aid. It is served at cha chaan tengs as well as fast-food shops such as Café de Coral, Fairwood and Maxim's Express. It can be served hot or cold, and is usually sweetened with sugar. It is made with warm milk, and ice is added to it if a cold drink is desired.
Horlicks came to India with the British Army; the end of World War I saw Indian soldiers of British Indian Army bringing it back with them as a dietary supplement. Punjab, Bengal and Madras Presidencies became early adopters of Horlicks and many well-to-do Indians took to drinking Horlicks as a family drink in early 1940s and 1950s. It became a sort of status symbol in upper middle class Indians and rich classes. The first flavour available in India, as in Britain, was malt.
India, where it has traditionally been marketed as The Great Family Nourisher, is the largest market for Horlicks. The Indian formulation for Horlicks is slightly different than in most other countries, as there it is manufactured from buffalo milk rather than cows milk.[unreliable source] In 2003, the brand underwent a revamp which led to the introduction of new flavours such as vanilla, toffee, chocolate, honey, and elaichi (cardamom). The current line-up of flavours include original (malt), chocolate and elaichi. with the latest offering Horlicks Kesar Badaam added recently to the portfolio, providing a more specialized taste offering to the consumers.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the scope of the brand in India. By pushing it to newer segments of the market, Horlicks has become an umbrella brand for a wide variety of products ranging from the flagship malt drink to instant noodles, confectionery and breakfast cereal. Special formulations of the malted drink for young children (Junior Horlicks), breast-feeding mothers (Mother's Horlicks), women (Women's Horlicks) and adults (Lite Horlicks) exist. Horlicks biscuits were first launched in 1993, and an energy bar was launched in 2009, named Horlicks NutriBar. Also in late 2009, Foodles, a brand of instant noodles, was launched under the Horlicks umbrella. This was followed in 2011 by launches of Horlicks Gold, a premium variant of the malt drink (dubbed The Best Horlicks Ever), and Horlicks Oats, the first breakfast cereal product under the Horlicks brand.
In 2010, Horlicks accounted for 85% of the ₹23.06 billion (US$330 million) revenue of GlaxoSmithKline in India. It is currently the most widely consumed packaged beverage in India, after bottled water.
The biggest branding event is Horlicks Wizkids. This event started its way in 2003 and till now has reached approximately 25 million children in all India as well as in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Ahaar Abhiyan is a Horlicks initiative to increase malnutrition-related awareness amongst mothers, families and communities. With the sale of every bottle of Horlicks, the company contributes Re 1 towards the initiative. The campaign attempts to raise awareness about proper nutrition amongst mothers of children aged between 3–6 years.
Horlicks Wizkids is an interschool cultural and literary competition for children from class 1 to 12. The competition attracts students from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. With more than 30 events in the field of arts, literature, painting and extra-curricular activities, Horlicks Wizkids is South Asia's largest interschool fiesta giving children an opportunity to showcase their talent on a global platform.
The 2013 Edition of Horlicks Wizkids South Asia was held in Bangalore. It consisted of five days of rigorous training sessions, talent rounds, project presentations and other fun, learning and recreational activities. More than 100,000 students from over 1200 schools participated. Five students from Vizag, Jaipur, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bhubaneshwar earned the title of the Horlicks WizTeam 2013. The winners got an opportunity to go for a learning program to Germany and a cash award of Rs. 100,000 each.
In some Southeast Asian countries, such as the Philippines and Malaysia, Horlicks was also sold as milky-chocolate-flavoured discs in paper packets, which were then eaten as candy. Horlicks remains popular in Malaysia and Singapore where it packed under licence from SmithKline Beecham and sold in large glass and tin containers. It is also available in 1.5 kg refill packs. "Taller, stronger, sharper" is its slogan.
Besides its use as a hot drink prepared with hot milk, Horlicks is also a popular ingredient in "honey and Horlicks" milkshakes in South Africa.
In the United Kingdom, Horlicks is available in Original (prepared with hot milk), Light (prepared with hot water), Malt Chocolate (prepared with hot water) and Caramel Dream (prepared with hot water). It is produced by Aimia Foods, which acquired the UK rights in 2017.
GlaxoSmithKline attempted a rebrand of the product in 2004 for younger consumers by redesigning the packaging and publicising its consumption at a number of trendy London venues such as the Groucho Club.
The company also owned Horlicks Farms and Dairies, a cheese, dairy and cattle breeding station at "Hort Bridge", Ilminster, Somerset. (The cattle breeding centre provided an artificial insemination service to farmers). In 1958 it took over the Cheddar Valley Dairy, and by the early 1960s had retail rounds, depots, and shops at Burnham, Cheddar, Clevedon, Glastonbury, Nailsea, Taunton, and Weston-super-Mare.
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- 1869: William Horlick from Ruardean, Gloucestershire emigrated to the United States.
- 1873: James Horlick, a pharmacist, joined his brother, William, in the US and together they founded the company J & W Horlicks in Chicago to manufacture a patented malted milk drink as an artificial infant food.
- 1875: Business moved to larger premises at Racine, Wisconsin, with an abundant supply of spring water.
- 1883: US patent 278,967 granted to William for first malted milk drink mixing powder with hot water.
- 1890: James returned to London to set up an office importing US-made product.
- 1906: Slough selected as site for new factory (see picture).
- 1908: Factory construction completed at a cost of £28,000.
- 1909–1910: Horlicks became popular as a provision for North Pole and South Pole expeditions by Robert Peary, Roald Amundsen, and Robert Falcon Scott.
- 1914: James made a baronet. World War I saw extensive use of Horlicks drink at home and at the front.
- 1921: Death of James led company to split, with William having responsibility for the Americas and the sons of James for the rest of the world.
- 1928: William Horlick High School founded just north of Horlicks' headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin.
- 1931: "Night Starvation" story developed to promote Horlicks as a bedtime drink.
- 1935: Richard E. Byrd named the Horlick Mountains on the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf after William, in appreciation of his support. A small factory opened in Australia for the local market, including New Zealand. Horlicks milky-chocolate-flavoured disks in paper packets, which were eaten as candy, were marketed in the USA via radio commercials touting the ease with which they could be taken to school by children.
In the USA, Horlicks Tablets were sold as a candy, offered in a glass bottle resembling an aspirin jar. In World War II the tablets were supplied to US, UK and other troops as an energy boosting treat, and included in lifeboat and liferaft rations, and aircrew escape kits. Today they are packaged in foil pouches, manufactured in Malaysia as Horlicks Malties.
- 1936: William Horlick died, aged 90.
- 1945: The US company was acquired by the UK Horlicks business.
- 1952: Horlicks was linked to the successful treatment of gastric ulcers and some forms of diabetes.
- 1960: Factory built in Punjab, India, to make Horlicks from buffalo milk.
- 1968: Factory built in West Punjab, to supply local demand (including present-day Bangladesh).
- 1969: Horlicks acquired by the Beecham Group.
- 1975–78: Factory construction and expansion in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh.
- 1989: Beecham Group became SmithKline Beecham.
- 2000: SmithKline Beecham became GlaxoSmithKline.
- 2017: Horlicks in the UK acquired by Aimia Foods
- 2019: Horlicks in India acquired by Unilever 
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Leading the charge is Horlicks, GSK's Rs 1,500-crore brand – easily the largest in its portfolio contributing 70 per cent to the brand's revenues globally.
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