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Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK
Ovaltine factory closes
ovaltine power website
Ovaltine Power is aimed to pack a punch with kids
A plant with a tradition of making the malted drink Ovaltine since 1913 in the UK is to to close, with the loss of 245 jobs.

Ovaltine manufacturers Novartis Consumer Health said that production of the drink would stop from May next year at its factory in King's Langley, Hertfordshire.

Instead production will be stepped up at its other European factory in Switzerland.

The company sells 10 million jars of Ovaltine in the UK every year.

"People are shocked but they have taken the news in a very dignified way," Richard Whall, Director of Product Supply at the UK factory told BBC News Online.

He said the company was providing a "wide-ranging support package for its employees", including an outplacement service and financial advice to help employees find new jobs and retrain if necessary.

But he added that the Swiss factory would now produce Ovaltine for the whole of Europe "so the brand itself will continue. The consumer won't notice any difference".

The Transport and General Workers' Union expressed surprise at news that the factory is to shut down.

Brian Revell, TGWU national organiser, said: "I'm shocked and stunned at the fact that a factory that has been around since 1913 should be closed with no consultation with the union or the workforce whatsoever".

'Zest for life'

Ovaltine - a history
1904 - invented by Swiss chemist Dr Wander
1919 - exports begin to Australia
1932 - served to athletes at the Olympic games
1935 - first 'Ovaltinies' transmission
1953 - used by Sir Edmund Hillary on Everest expedition
1973 - chocolate Ovaltine launched
1987 - Ovaltine light launched
1997 - Ovaltine Power launched

The firm recently beefed up its advertising campaign to highlight the drink's energy-giving properties.

"People think it's designed to make you go to sleep," said marketing manager Paul Simpson at the time, "but actually for all of the last century, it was promoted as an energy-giving drink".

The company said sales in the UK had been increasing following this 'zest for life' campaign, which was launched to counter a decline in the drink's popularity.

A long tradition

The beverage was made famous in the 1930s by a group of children known as the Ovaltinies who were so popular they had their own radio show.

It has been the official sports drink of several Olympics. At the 1948 Olympic Games in Wembley, 25,000 cups were served to competitors.

Ovaltine was also supplied on Sir Edmund Hillary's successful attempt to climb Mount Everest in 1953.

The drink's basic ingredient is malt extract. It also has barley, milk powder, cocoa and vitamins and minerals added.

"You can virtually live off it and nothing else ... its got pretty much all the nutrients for life," Richard Whall told BBC News Online, though he added that some nutritionists might take issue with this.

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