A mug of Horlicks

Horlicks is a sweet malted milk hot drink powder developed by founders James and William Horlick. It was first sold as "Horlick's Infant and Invalids Food", soon adding "aged and travellers" to their label.[1] In the early 20th century, it was sold as a powdered meal replacement drink mix.

‘Night starvation’ was a fictitious condition invented by Horlicks as an advertising gimmick that was supposedly relieved if a mug of the malt drink was consumed before bedtime. In the song "Goodness gracious me!", the doctor (played by Peter Sellers) mentions night starvation as one of the many possible ailments that his wealthy Italian patient (played by Sophia Loren) might be suffering from, when in fact the trouble is that they are both lovesick.

It was then marketed as a nutritional supplement and manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline (Consumer Healthcare) in Australia, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom. It is now produced by the Anglo-Dutch company Unilever through its Indian division. Horlicks in the UK is currently owned by Aimia Foods.

On 3 December 2018, Unilever announced they were buying Horlicks Indian business for US$3.8 billion.[2] The Horlicks UK business had already been sold in 2017 to Aimia Foods,[3] a UK-based subsidiary of Cott Corporation.[4]

In Britain, Horlicks is commonly consumed as a drink near bedtime, and is marketed as an evening drink; in contrast, it has been marketed as a breakfast drink in India where it is far more popular.[5]


The main ingredient in the United Kingdom formulation is a mixture of wheat flour and malted wheat (46%), followed by malted barley (26%). As of 2019, the other ingredients include dried whey, calcium carbonate, dried skimmed milk, sugar, palm oil, salt, Anti-Caking Agent (E551), and a mixture of vitamins and minerals.[6] The palm oil used is non-hydrogenated and certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.[7] The formulation may vary slightly depending upon the country. For instance, the Indian formulation does not contain oil, but does contain soy protein isolate.[8]


March 1952 ad for Horlicks in 208, the magazine of Radio Luxembourg

Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future serial was sponsored by Horlicks in 1952 and was aired Monday to Friday at 7:15 p.m. over Radio Luxembourg.[citation needed]

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."[citation needed]

Horlicks was the sponsor of the Lum and Abner Show from 1934 to 1937.[9]

Around the world

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Horlicks" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (September 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Explorer Ernest de Koven Leffingwell poses with cases of Horlick's Malted Milk on Flaxman Island, Alaska, c. 1910.


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.[10] The Indian formulation for Horlicks is slightly different from that used in most other countries, as there it is manufactured from buffalo milk rather than cows milk.[11][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).[12] The current line-up of flavours include original (malt), chocolate and elaichi.[13] with the latest offering Horlicks Kesar Badaam added recently to the portfolio, providing a more specialized taste offering to the consumers.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16] Horlicks biscuits were first launched in 1993,[17] 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.[18]

In 2010, Horlicks accounted for 85% of the 23.06 billion (US$290 million) revenue of GlaxoSmithKline in India.[15] In 2012 it was the most widely consumed packaged beverage in India, after bottled water.[19]

The biggest branding event is Horlicks Wizkids.[20] 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[21] 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 ₹1 towards the initiative. The campaign attempts to raise awareness about proper nutrition amongst mothers of children aged between 3 and 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.[22]

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 1,200 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 ₹100,000 each.[23]

Hong Kong

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.

Southeast Asia

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.

Horlicks in Indonesia

South Africa

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.

United Kingdom

An advertisement for Horlicks from 1904
An advertisement for Horlicks from 1904.

In the United Kingdom, Horlicks is produced by Aimia Foods. It is available in Traditional (prepared with hot milk), Light (prepared with hot water), and Light Chocolate (prepared with hot water). [24]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Company timeline

William Horlick
This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Horlicks" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (November 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The Horlicks factory in Slough is a local landmark. This building has since been renovated and restored for residential use in the "Horlicks Quarter" housing development.[25][26]

See also


  1. ^ Howell, Madeleine (18 June 2018). "The surprising story of Horlicks, the original nutritional supplement, which is now on sale for $3bn". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 19 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Unilever swallows GSK's Indian Horlicks business for $3.8 billion". Reuters. 3 December 2018. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  3. ^ "Unilever to acquire Horlicks business from GSK for £3.3bn". Insider.co.uk. 3 December 2018. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  4. ^ "Aimia Foods Limited - Cott Corporation". Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  5. ^ Hope, Katie. "The drink Brits go to bed with and Indians wake up with". BBC. Retrieved 12 February 2021.
  6. ^ "Horlicks Nutritional Malt Milk Products". horlicks.co.uk.
  7. ^ "FAQ | Horlicks". Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  8. ^ How healthy is your health drink? Mumbai Mirror, 14 April 2008
  9. ^ Hall, Randal (7 September 2007). Lum and Abner: Rural America and the Golden Age of Radio. New Directions in Southern History. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. p. 16. ASIN B003CP0DRU. ISBN 978-0813124698.
  10. ^ Pinto, Viveat. "GSK plays catch-up in foods & beverages". Business Standard. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 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.
  11. ^ "The History of Malted Milk Powder | Culinary history, recipes, stories from behind the scenes, and general geekdom". Kitchen Lore. 22 July 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  12. ^ Moutusi Maity; Arunava Saha Dalal; Giridhar Rao B.G.; Navneet Chahal; Rohini Ramachandran; Suraj Holla Byndoor. "Revitalising Women's Horlicks in India". Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. Archived from the original on 25 May 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  13. ^ "Horlicks Products | Horlicks". GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare India Limited. Archived from the original on 25 January 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  14. ^ "GlaxoSmithKline Consumer expands Horlicks portfolio". Articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  15. ^ a b Bhanu Pande; Ratna Bhushan (3 February 2011). "GSK Consumer: Will pushing Horlicks into new categories destroy the brand?". The Economic Times. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  16. ^ "Horlicks Products | HFDs". GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare India Limited. Archived from the original on 25 January 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  17. ^ "GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare India – Products – Horlicks Biscuits". GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare India Limited. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  18. ^ Khicha, Preeti. "Stretching the Horlicks core". afaqs!. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  19. ^ Kitamura, Makiko. "Glaxo's Horlicks Health Drink Outsells Pepsi in India: Retail". Bloomberg. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  20. ^ [1] Archived 11 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ [2] Archived 6 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Sakshi Mathur. "Horlicks Wizkids launches an online campaign now students get opportunity to participate in 2013 South Asia Finals". Indiaprwire.com. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  23. ^ Sakshi Mathur (30 December 2013). "Winners all the way: WizTeam 2013 wows the jury at the South Asia finals of Horlicks Wizkids 2013 in Bangalore". Indiaprwire.com. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  24. ^ "Horlicks - Aimia Foods". Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  25. ^ "Horlicks Quarter | New Apartments in Berkshire | Berkeley". Berkeley Group. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  26. ^ "Home buyers can have sneak peek of the new flats at iconic Horlicks factory". Slough Observer. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  27. ^ "Unilever buys GSK's Indian Horlicks business for 3.3 billion euros". BelfastTelegraph.co.uk. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  28. ^ "Unilever swallows GSK's Indian Horlicks business for $3.8 billion". Reuters. 3 December 2018. Retrieved 6 December 2018.