Monday, August 25, 2014

Liqui-cal…the dairy bottle that holds the answer to effective, pleasant weight reduction for you!

by Erin Doane, curator

We have a large collection of milk bottles (nearly 100) in the Museum’s collection.  Dairying was big business in Chemung County and many of the bottles were made by Thatcher Glass in Elmira. Back in the spring when we were planning our farming exhibit, I got to look through a lot of these bottles.  One in particular caught my eye.  The text on the brown glass milk bottle read: “Liqui-Cal A New 900 Calorie Food for Weight Control.”  I was intrigued.

Liqui-cal came onto the market in 1960. It was a food in liquid form consisting principally of milk solids, sugar, cocoa, cream and added vitamins and minerals for use in a weight reducing diet.  A quart of Liqui-cal cost 89 cents.  One bottle was a full day’s supply for dieters on a full liquid diet or a two or three day supply for those on a modified diet that included other foods.  It could be found in the dairy case at grocery stores and was also available for home delivery through local dairy routemen.  In 1961, chocolate, vanilla, and coffee flavored frozen Liqui-cal “ice cream” was introduced for people who wanted a change from the all-liquid diet.

One typical diet plan included 8 ounces of Liqui-cal for breakfast, 8 ounces of Liqui-cal for lunch, and a low-calorie evening meal consisting of fruit or fruit juice, a medium portion of lean meat, green vegetables and dark or black coffee.  That sounds, to me, a lot like “a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, then a sensible dinner” that was proposed by Slim-Fast when it was introduced in 1977.

Another diet plan recommended that 8 ounces of Liqui-cal should be taken four times a day, for breakfast, lunch, supper and in the evening.  Three cups of dark or black coffee may also be ingested during the 24 hour period. This diet should be followed for 48 hours, then should be alternated with 2 days of solid low-calorie food such as lean meats, fish, green vegetables, and citrus fruits and juices.  

Liqui-cal advertisement from the

Yonkers Herald Statesman, 1961
How effective was the Liqui-cal diet?  According to the company’s advertising, the supervising physician in their medical test of patients on a diet of dairy-fresh Liqui-cal declared the results excellent and effective.  During the three week test period, participants lost an average of 7.5 pounds. Individuals considered markedly obese in the study lost an average of 19 pounds in three weeks.  It was also noted that all participants remained physical fit during the test period, showing that they were still receiving all the vitamins and nutrients that they needed.

Liqui-cal was “scientifically prepared to supply your body with all the vitamins, minerals and proteins that it needs for buoyant, normal health in a sound program of dietary control” according to the bottle.  In 1963, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven release a report on various food and drug products.  One product they tested was Vanilla flavored Liqui-cal.  After running “rather extensive proximate analyses and vitamin assays” they found that there was a significant shortage of vitamin A – only 54% of the claimed amount.  The sample also contained excesses over guaranty ranging from 64% to 153% of thiamine, riboflavin, and calcium pantothenate.  They, therefore, declared the sample to be misbranded.


  1. Was Liqui-Cal a local Elmira product?

    1. Liqui-Cal wasn't a local product or company, but Thatcher glass designed the bottles (which is why we have one).