About 60 years after Daniel Peter invented Milk Chocolate, Nestlé made another ground breaking discovery. While attempting to make medicated milk for children in a solid form, they created what was arguably the first-ever white chocolate.
Nestlé first made Nestrovit, the medicinal children’s milk, in 1936. The product started out as a vitamin-enriched condensed milk which was developed with the Swiss pharmaceutical Company Hoffman-la Roche, and with the co-operation of paediatricians. Nestlé decided that they wanted to try to create a solid, tablet form of Nestrovit and came up with the idea of adding cocoa butter. This mixture of condensed milk and cocoa butter is, of course, the basic recipe for white chocolate.
Nestlé’s product was so successful that in 1937 it was developed as a confectionery line (without the added vitamins). The brand was known as Galak on the continent, and Milkybar in Britain (probably because the word ‘Galak’ does not usually sound appealing to the ear of English consumers). Production began at the Hayes factory in 1937, but stopped when war broke out. Milkybar was reintroduced in 1956 and sales immediately picked up. However by 1961, when the first Milkybar Kid TV ad was aired, sales had begun to slump.
Although Milkybar had been advertised using various themes up until 1961, it was the creation of the Milkybar Kid as the brand’s mascot that really launched Milkybar’s success.
The 1961 advertisement featured Terry Brooks as the Wild West hero, in a storyline where a bespectacled crusader saves the day. The Milkybar Kid advertising campaign was so popular that sales increased by nearly 50% over the next three years. It was one of the most successful advertising campaigns that Nestlé had ever run and made Milkybar one of the most popular family sweets of all time.
Terry Brooks’ black and white TV commercials had a long run of ten years. The timeless nature of the Wild West theme ensured that the advertisements didn’t seem dated.
By 1972 Milkybar had become Nestlé’s best-selling confectionery product, and we were selling bars as fast as we could make them. Nestlé decided to make a series of new adverts and pull out all the stops. This time filming took place on location in southern Spain and with a much greater realism and attention to detail than the first set of ads. The new Milkybar Kid, Tommy Atkinson, was given intensive horse-riding lessons so that he could gallop in and capture the baddie.
In 1977 Nestlé launched its largest Milkybar campaign ever, with a series of advertisements starring their new Milkybar Kid John Cornelius. The adverts were made by a top production company, which included a lighting man who’d won an Oscar for Cabaret (or so the company legend goes).
Despite the success of the Wild West theme, Nestlé decided three years later that the Milkybar kid needed bringing up to date. In 1980 Milkybar Kid Paul Varney was sent into space to pacify space monsters with his trademark Milkybars.
The new twist on the old favourite paved the way for several new stories, including haunted houses, swamps and evil knights.
In 1987 Nestlé launched the first entirely white chocolate drop on the UK market: Milkybar Buttons. The new product was launched with a new ad, this time featuring the Milkybar Kid as a circus ringmaster in which the star attraction was a machine that could chew up a Milkybar and turn it into buttons.
Eagle-eyed viewers may notice that the audience of children in the Milkybar Circus contained one or two famous faces. Among the child actors on set that day was a young Emma Bunton (latterly known as Baby Spice of the Spice Girls) and Keeley Hawes (of Spooks and Ashes to Ashes).
After outings on various themes, the Milkybar Kid was ready to saddle his horse and ride out west once again for his 30th birthday. Advertisements on a Western theme ran through the 1990s and were replaced by a series of animated ads at the turn of the century.
It seemed that the days of a real Milkybar Kid were over, until Nestlé announced that they would be launching a new recipe bar, with all natural ingredients. The Milkybar Kid had one more ride into the sunset, this time riding through woodland, rather than the Wild West, reinforcing the brand’s natural credentials.