Milo (drink)

Milo (/ˈml/; stylised as MILO) is a chocolate flavoured malted powder product produced by Nestlé, typically mixed with milk, hot water, or both, to produce a beverage. It was originally developed in Australia by Thomas Mayne in 1934.

Product typeChoco milk drink
Introduced29 August 1934 (1934-08-29)

Most commonly sold as a powder in a green tin, often depicting various sporting activities, Milo is available as a premixed beverage in some countries, and has been subsequently developed into a snack bar, breakfast cereal and protein granola. Its composition and taste differ from country to country.

Milo maintains significant popularity in a diverse range of countries throughout the world, particularly in Australasia, Asia, and Africa.


1940s Milo tin.

In 1934, Australian industrial chemist and inventor Thomas Mayne, who was working at Nestlé, developed Milo,[1][2] and launched it at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.[3] Mayne came up with his formula for Milo combining malt extract (made from malted barley), full cream milk powder, cocoa, sugar, mineral salts, iron and vitamins A, D and B1, in an attempt "to develop a completely balanced food drink which contained all the necessary proteins and minerals".[4] It was intended to help children to obtain enough nutrients in their diet.[5]

Nestlé, which had taken ownership of a milk processing plant in Smithtown, New South Wales, in 1921, started producing the product not long after the show.[5] The name was derived from the famous ancient athlete Milo of Croton, after his legendary strength.[6] The product was even noted as "tonic food".[7][8]

Description and manufacture

Milo is a malted powder product produced by Nestlé, typically mixed with milk, hot water, or both, to produce a beverage.[9]

Comparison of Milo from New Zealand and Ghana.

Milo is manufactured by evaporating the water content from a thick syrup at reduced pressure, using a vacuum dryer to reduce the mix to granular form.[10] The thick opaque syrup is obtained from malted wheat or barley sourced from companies that produce these raw products.[11][12]

Since 2017, Nestle Philippines has produced Milo using its "protomalt" formulation.[13][14] The protomalt is composed of carbohydrates derived from barley and cassava.[13][14]

As of 2021, the Smithtown factory, which produces the product for Australia and New Zealand, produces more than 13,000 tonnes of Milo a year.[5]

Granular Milo powder (Australian form)

Nutritional information

The recipe for the standard product has remained almost exactly the same since its creation in 1934, the only variation being in the added minerals and vitamins. However, as of 2021 three other varieties are manufactured at the Australian plant: high protein, reduced sugar and a plant-based version.[5]

Standard Milo consists of four main ingredients: malted barley, milk powder, sugar and cocoa.[15] It contains 1,680 kJ (402 calories) in every 100 g of the powder, mostly from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can be used for energy by the body, which is the basis of Milo being marketed as an energy drink. Most of the carbohydrate content is sugar. The New Zealand version of Milo is 46 per cent sugar.[16]

Milo dissolved in water has a Glycemic Index (GI) of 55, lower than Coca-Cola's GI of 63.[17] However, milk has a much lower GI of 30 to 33, so mixing Milo into a mug of milk yields an overall GI closer to 33. [18]

Milo is high in calcium, iron and the vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12. Milo is advertised as containing "Actigen-E", but this is just Nestlé's trademarked name for the vitamins in the Milo recipe.[19] It also contains some theobromine, a xanthine alkaloid similar to caffeine, which is present in the cocoa used in the product.[20][21]

As of 2021, Nestlé has launched dairy-free plant-based versions of Milo and other drinks under the brand. The new version of these drinks will contain almond and soy milk, the two core ingredients cocoa and malt will remain the same.[22]


A cup of hot Milo

Australia and New Zealand

Traditionally in Australia and New Zealand, Milo is served mixed with either hot or cold milk, or sprinkled on top.[23]


Iced Milo aka "Milo Ais". A popular drink in Singapore and Malaysia.

Milo manufactured outside Australia is customised for local methods of preparation. In Malaysia as well as Brunei and some other parts of Asia, Milo with ice added is known as "Iced Milo" or "Milo Ais" in Malay Language (alternatively, "bing" or "peng", meaning ice in Cantonese and Hokkien respectively). Iced Milo is even available at fast food restaurants such as KFC and McDonald's.[24][25][26]

Milo is also served locally in kopitiams and mamak stalls in versions such as "Milo Dinosaur" (a cup of Milo with an extra spoonful of undissolved Milo powder added on top of it), "Milo Godzilla" (a cup of Milo with ice cream and/or topped with whipped cream) "Neslo" (combined with Nescafé powdered coffee) and "Milo Mangkuk" (Iced Milo that is served with shaved ice inside a plastic bowl). The Milo powder is also usually used in the making of Batik cake. In Hong Kong, Milo is served in Cha chaan teng.[27]

In Malaysia, Milo is also sometimes sprinkled on ice cream or breakfast cereals, or mixed with milk into a paste and spread on bread.[28] Milo can be used as an ingredient in Roti Canai, where it is usually called "Roti Milo".[29]

At the present time, Malaysia has the world’s highest per capita consumption of Milo, Singapore coming second.[30] Malaysia is also home to the world’s biggest Milo factory.[31]


Apart from Australia, Milo is popular in many countries including New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Pakistan, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Thailand, Jamaica, Colombia, and countries in Southern Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, West Africa.[32][33][34]

In Australia and most other countries, the packaging is green and depicts people playing various sports on the tin. A higher malt content form also existed in Australia and was marketed in a brown coloured tin which was usually only available in the 375g size. As of May 2015, this form is no longer manufactured.

In Australia, the MILO in2CRICKET and MILO T20 Blast programs, operated in most areas by volunteers, teach children age 5-12 how to play the game of cricket. In the 2016–2017 season, over 78,000 children participated in the programs.[35]

Milo's commercials and taglines are "Go and go and go with Milo". A recent Australian commercial incorporating this slogan depicts four generations of women on a skipping rope singing "and my mum gave me Milo to go and go and go." The tag "I need my Milo Today" is also used. The packaging of tins of Milo in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore are also green and also have people playing sports on the tins, giving it the nickname "Tak Kiu", which is Hokkien Chinese for football. In Colombia, Milo is closely tied to football, and the slogan several generations have sung is Milo te da energía, la meta la pones tú ("Milo gives you the energy, you set the goal").

Milo is very popular in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, where the brand name is synonymous with chocolate flavoured drinks: Milo has a 90% market share in Malaysia (not the often quoted 90% worldwide share of Milo consumption),[36] and Malaysians were said to be the world's largest consumers of Milo.[37] This is because Milo was once used as a nutrient supplement when it was first introduced in the country, and has thus gained a reputation as a "must have" drink for the old and the younger generations. Milo manufactured in Malaysia is made to dissolve well in hot water to produce a smooth hot chocolate drink, or with ice added for a cold drink. "Milo Vans" were often associated with sports days in these two countries, during which primary school pupils would queue up to collect their cups of Milo drinks using coupons.

In Peru, during the 1970s military dictatorship, Milo labels displayed Peruvian motifs, such as photos and pictures of Peruvian towns, history, crops, fruits, animals, plants,[38][39] as an educational aid. After 1980, when the military left power, sports predominated on the labels.

Milo is sold by Nestlé in Canada at all major food retailers. Although Milo has been available since the 1970s, a Canadian-specific flavour launched within the last decade that dissolves more quickly but maintains the sweet malt flavour profile. It competes with the British brand Ovaltine.

Aside from the International section of specific grocery stores and certain Asian grocery stores, Nestlé does not market Milo in the United States. In 2017 Colombian-manufactured Milo started appearing on shelves in supermarkets in the United States such as Walmart.

It can also be found in the United Kingdom in some Sainsbury's and Tesco supermarkets, which import it from Kenya and South Africa. Asian food specialists also stock it. Ovaltine is more popular with UK consumers.[40]

In Ireland, it can be found in many Asian or African stores. Typically they will stock Kenyan or Filipino Milo.

In China, it is commonly sold in Western supermarkets, but also smaller convenience stores. Usually packaged in a 240gram flexible foil pouch, single-drink packets can also be purchased. The Milo itself contains more milk solids than the Australian Milo.[41]

In the past, it was available in Portugal and Brazil. Nestlé Brazil discontinued production of Milo in Brazil, to focus on the much-popular domestic brands Nescau and Nesquik. The Chilean version of Milo is still in production and is identical in taste and texture to the one that was once produced in Brazil.

In May 2013, more than 20 years out of the Portuguese market, Nestlé reintroduced the brand, aiming at the high-end market.[42]

Derivative products

Milo Wrapper
Milo energy food bar
A Milo energy food bar c.2011, split

Milo was available as a snack in cube form in Nigeria, Ghana and Dubai in 1975.[43]

The Milo chocolate bar was brand of brownie, caramel, Milo and chocolate-covered candy bars, produced by Nestlé for sale in Australia and available in 2006. It included ingredients of Milo powder.[44] It claimed to be the only milk chocolate with "choco malt" and "all natural ingredients including cocoa, milk and malt".[45] The chocolate bar was discontinued in Australia in 2003, replaced with an "energy food bar",[46][47] which as of 2021 is no longer available either. Two varieties of Milo snack bars can be bought in packs of six.[48]

As of 2006, there was also Milo cereal (described as "cornflakes with a Milo coating"), Milo smoothies, Milo mousse, and Milo ice-cream (a vanilla ice-cream coated with hard Milo/chocolate shell).[44]

In Australia, a new version of Milo called Milo B-Smart was released in 2008, which had a finer texture, added B vitamins and iodine, and a different taste from the original Milo formula, and was marketed as a health food for children.[49] However, as of 2021 this product is no longer available.[50]

Milo nuggets have been available since 1994 in South-East Asia and Colombia.[51][52] Milo cereal balls and a range of other derivative products are marketed by Tesco in Malaysia.[53]


In South-east Asia, a nutrition research society based in Malaysia set up in 2014 suggested that Milo and similar products consumed by children were "more likely to be physically active and spend less time in front of a computer or television". A 2017 New York Times article found that Nestlé had been financing the society and vetting the articles before publication, leading to questions of scientific impartiality.[54][55] The high concentration of sugar, and the presence of maltodextrin, also raised whether the product should be marketed as a health product.[56]

In the Philippines in 2017, Nestlé partnered with the Department of Education, in a marketing response to the "energy gap" within school-aged children whose athletic and academic performance was impacted due to low energy. This raised the ethical question of advertising to children. [57]

See also

  • Akta-Vite
  • Horlicks
  • List of hot beverages
  • Malted milk
  • Milo dinosaur
  • Ovaltine
  • Ovomaltine


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