I stumbled across these beverages in a West African grocery in Washington, D.C. It was in the Union Market section, which is a several block square shopping area with many exotic food stores, some of which are open to the general public, and others which sell bulk food to restaurants. You'll be hearing a lot about this wonderful shopping area in the next few weeks/months, and once again I have to thank my friend Keith for finding it and taking me there.
Anyway, given where I was, I figured this beverage, two kinds of Vitamalt, was African in origin. Therefore, I was somewhat surprised to read that they were produced in Denmark. Their route to my hand was quite circuitous, too. One bottle mentioned import companies from Trinidad, Jamaica, Panama, and Denmark, while the other noted all of these plus Columbia. Further reading revealed that Vitamalt is most popular in the Caribbean and Africa. Even the manufacturer, Royal Unibrew, admits that this product is only a niche product in Europe, and therefore Denmark as well. So we have the strange situation of a product being more popular in other countries than in its own. I tried looking up other examples of this, and only really came up with Fanta. It's made by the American Coca-Cola company (and was developed by a Coca-Cola employee in Germany during World War II*) but is more heartily consumed in African and Latin American countries. Perhaps one of the reasons for Vitamalt's popularity is because it's a non-alcoholic malt beverage. So cultures that forbid drinking alcohol can still enjoy a beer-ish type beverage. But, this obviously isn't the only reason. Vitamalt, as the name suggests, gets a fair bit of mileage about its status as a healthier energy drink. It contains many B vitamins, fiber, and some types also contain antioxidants. (The caffeine in it is clearly not exactly healthy, but something has to give the drink a "kick," I suppose.) Keeping with its healthy promoted image, Vitamalt sponsors various athletic clubs and events, especially in the Caribbean, and its website offers fitness tips, etc.
I was able to locate Vitamalt Plus Acai/Guarana/Aloe Vera (which came with a purple label on a green, 330 mL (11.2 ounce) bottle), and Vitamalt Plus Aloe Vera/Ginseng/Royal Jelly (which had a yellow and red label on the same size green bottle. The drink itself is a dark brown, and resembles a dark beer. Sadly, it doesn't taste like a beer. I absolutely despised both kinds. Both sorts tasted the same to me, too--despite the difference in the ingredients. I always try to finish a decent serving of the exotics I discuss on this blog, but I couldn't punish myself this time. I drain poured both after only a few ounces. They were totally gross, with almost a soy sauce-like flavor, only way off. In an odd way I can understand that they're good for you--and just like many edibles that are good for you, they don't taste good at all.
So, as you can probably tell, I won't be buying this these again, even if I do get another chance. Instead I'll imbibe alcoholic malt beverages. And then maybe I'll get my B vitamins by drinking a Gatorade or something. And I like many of Bob Marley's songs, but I don't agree with his taste in beverages, it appears.
* I kept reading online articles about the Nazi history behind Fanta online. Then a look at the urban myth-debunking website Snopes indicated that this isn't fair. Evidently although inventor Max Keith was in Germany during the World War II era, he never was a member of the Nazi Party, and couldn't be shown to be a sympathizer, even.