History & Marketing Strategies of Horlicks Brand

Company Name – Horlicks
Founder – William Horlick and James Horlick

As India’s most trusted health drink offered in various flavors, Horlicks has been a popular hot beverage since 1870’s in the UK. What started its journey as hot drinks for kids and invalids, soon became a common drink for people of all ages and even athletes, warriors and more.

Marketed for long under GlaxoSmithKline, Horlicks was introduced to India by British during World War I and soon had its branches and campaigns to make it a completely Indian product.   

How It All Started

A chemist from Ruardean in England’s Gloucestershire, William Horlick was joined by his brother James Horlick in 1873 in Chicago and they jointly decided to open J&W Horlicks with a tagline saying Horlick’s Infant and Invalids Food. Initially the malted dairy beverage was called ‘Diastoid’. 

By 1883, the drink was patented and in 1908, the first factory was built in Slough of Berkshire in UK. The high-calorie, non-perishable and lightweight food supplement soon made its way to polar expeditions, as energy-booster and escape-kit to World War I and II and as supplement for Olympians in 1948.  


It was 1945 when Horlicks was acquired by UK Horlicks and by 1960, Horlicks factories were opened in Punjab where buffalo milk was used and in Rajamundhary in Andhra Pradesh in 1975-78. In 1969, Beecham Group took over Horlicks and became SmithKline Beecham in 1989 followed by GlaxoSmithKline in 2000. 

Horlicks was first launched in 1982 as malted drink in sachets and by 2010, various packages were launched in market. In 2017, Aimia Foods acquired Horlicks in UK while Unilever acquired Horlicks in India in 2019.   


Horlicks’ marketing strategy and interesting reasons behind its success

-What started as a health-oriented marketing strategy since 1930’s, went through a revamping in 2003 after GSK decided to experiment with flavors like chocolate, elaichi, toffee and vanilla to offer “pleasurable nourishment”, something which kids readily accepted. 

-From health drinks to biscuits, oats to instant noodles, the various products from Horlicks cater to people from different age group as well as different requirements. While Mothers’ Horlicks and Women’s Horlicks are designed to fulfill the nutritional needs of women during pregnancy and nursing as well as middle age, the Junior Horlicks, Horlicks Promind and Growth+ Horlicks are designed for kids and youth to enhance their mental and physical stamina. 

-For health conscious consumers, Horlicks had the range of products like Cardia+ Horlicks and Lite Horlicks. For people with diabetes, the Lite Horlicks was made with zero sugar and zero cholesterol so that the body can counter damage from oxidative stress. The Growth+ Horlicks consists of essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids and has enhanced taste with flavors like caramel, chocolate, kesar-badam and vanilla. From pet jars of different quantity to refill packs –the options were many. 

-GSK has made sure that Horlicks is available in every corner of India and that supermarkets and grocery shops stock sufficient amount of Horlicks products. Apart from manufacturing units in Punjab, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh, the four metro cities have zonal headquarters to handle the marketing and sales in particular region. 


Horlicks’ Campaigns 

One of the most sensational yet controversial campaigns led by Horlicks was that of “Taller, Stronger, Sharper” in which it was shown that among two groups of children, one was given Horlicks drinks and the other was given conventional milk-based drinks and after a month a test was conducted where it was shown that kids drinking Horlicks were found to be taller, stronger and sharper than the other group.

Under GlaxoSmithKline, another campaign with the same message was conducted where the kid superstar Darsheel Safary was seen along with a few kids drinking Horlicks and spreading the idea of “Badlo Apne Bachpan Ka Size” while rushing through classrooms, rooftops, staffrooms and playgrounds. 

To promote the launch of the new Kesar-Badaam flavor, Horlicks created the advertisement where a young prince is seen defeating an older soldier but keeps on running away from glass of milk. As the Queen mother becomes worried, two people arrive with kesar or saffron and nut or badaam respectively which are crushed and blended to the milk to enhance the taste and the prince finishes off the milk heartily.

This advertisement was continued for the Chocolate flavour launching with the tagline “Doodh ka glass khallas”. 

In order to engage the school-goers of urban areas, the advertisement of inventor in children was launched where a mother finds the egg case in the fridge almost empty and as she checks her son, he is found to be experimenting with eggs to generate electricity. This campaign was extended to activating exercises for kids and mothers. 

By referring to “Food Science” and mentioning how useful it is to consume two glasses of Horlicks everyday, an advertisement was done where a tuition-going student is given cookies and fruits at first by his mother and then the scene changes into the boy drinking a mug of Horlicks. 

According to Walter Thompson’s concept, GSK had an ad campaign where the idea was to fuel aspiring students and it featured a boy tirelessly building human anatomical organisms from everyday objects. As the mother is seen asking him whether he wishes to become doctor, he replies that he also wishes to create medicines which will reduce patients’ visits to doctors. The tagline “Dudh mein Horlicks Milao, dudh ki shakti badhao” was introduced in this campaign. 

The campaign of “Badhne ki bhookh rag rag mein” was an inspiring advertisement where kids were seen excelling in different fields from academic to dancing, tennis to football and the mother was seen bringing the kids mugs of Horlicks saying that the carving for doing something comes from Horlicks. 

By addressing the malnutrition and under-growth of kids between 3 to 9 years of age, the Growth+ campaign was started where it was shown how a nutrition-rich clinically-proven Horlicks can alleviate growth-related issues. With the same emphasis, the “Mission Poshan” campaign was started where legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan was the ambassador. Focusing first thousand days of child and addressing any stunting or malnutrition issues, there were numerous activities like live 12-hour telethon and camping. 

Finally, sponsored by Horlicks, the Fearless Kota campaign addressed one serious yet less-talked-about issue faced by youngsters –committing suicide under excessive pressure to get in IITs. The campaign showed how a surprise visit from parents can boost up the “emotional nutrition” of the students.   



While emphasizing on distinct labelling and packaging in different packs, Horlicks products are created by keeping the nutritional requirements of different age group in mind. From infants to kids, youth and adult, nursing mothers to middle-aged mothers and aged people –the extensive range of products are thoroughly appealing. 

With this, there are regular advertise campaigns featuring some of the renowned faces of the industry, thereby, increasing the interest of people in Horlicks drinks, cereals etc. 

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