Malted milk is a powder made of barley, wheat flour, and malt powder that is combined with milk to form a beverage. Often, malted milk powder is added to milkshakes to add sweetness and flavor. Only non-diastatic malt powder is used as a flavoring agent in malted milk, whereby diastatic malts are used in baking to help breads rise by breaking down starch into sugar.
Historically, the term was trademarked in 1887 by pharmacist James Horlick and his brother, William, at a factory in Racine, Wisconsin. The two brothers began Horlick Food Company by producing a powder that could be added to milk to fortify it for ailing infants. For more than six years, the Horlick brothers worked to improve their product and in 1887, produced the first-ever whole milk in powdered form. While originally marketed for infants, the product quickly gained popularity, especially among explorers, for its convenience and indefinite shelf life. Horlick's malted milk was widely available in drugstores as both a powder and a tablet, and pharmacists began using the powder to make a cheap syrup to sweeten sodas.
With the invention of an electric blender by Fred Osius in the 1920s, malted milk became a pop culture fad. The sweet powder could be flavored and added to ice cream to form a thick, filling beverage with a high fat content. A combination of the powder and ice cream was marketed as a complete meal-in-a-glass, and typically fetched a high price.
The powder has since found its way into many products besides beverages. In 1939, the Overland Candy Company added it to their Giants candy product. After a merge with Leaf Brand, the product was re-released in 1947 under the name Whoppers™. It is also used in biscuits, bagels, hot beverages, and as an ice cream topping.
While usually high in fat and sugar content, malted milks are rich with vitamins and minerals. Carnation®, Ovaltine®, and the original Horlick's products are a good way to boost caloric intake and milk consumption in children, especially picky eaters. Most modern products found on the shelves are heavily sugared and still remain a special treat.