What is Lucozade? A Guide to this Distinctly British Beverage

bottle of lucozade british beverage

Watch enough British TV, and you'll eventually hear someone talking about Lucozade. If you haven't spent much time in UK hospitals or supermarkets, you might find yourself wondering about the mystery beverage. 

What is Lucozade?

Lucozade is a British soft drink that's long been known for its purported medical benefits – first as a sort of medicinal concoction, then as a “pick me up”, and more recently as a sports drink.

Though often thought of as healthy, a 500 ml bottle contained more sugar than a similar-sized Coca-Cola back in 2016. It has since been reformulated to reduce the amount of sugar so the brand could avoid the sugary drinks tax. That sugar has been replaced with aspartame and acesulfame K. 

The best-known flavour is “original”, which is a sort of nondescript citrus flavour. Many have complained that modern-day Lucozade tastes very different from the Lucozade of days gone by, possibly due to the use of artificial sweeteners or some other formula change.

These days, there's an entire line of Lucozade beverages, including Lucozade Energy, Lucozade Zero, Lucozade Sport, and Lucozade Alert. Aside from the original flavour, others have included orange, wild cherry, pink lemonade, apple blast, strawberry, raspberry ripple, Caribbean crush, Brazilian mango and mandarin, citrus chill, and watermelon and strawberry.

Where Was Lucozade Invented – and What Was it Originally Made For?

The story of Lucozade begins with William Walker Hunter, a pharmacist in Newcastle – aka Vera territory – who had an interest in biochemistry. It was 1927, and he wanted to create a beverage to help people recover from illness and exhaustion. He called his glucose-based tonic Glucozade.

Hunter initially produced Glucozade in his own pharmacy, and it quickly became popular. In 1938, he sold it to the Beecham Group, a pharmaceutical company that was later absorbed and merged into the monster that would ultimately be known as GlaxoSmithKline. In 2013, GSK sold Lucozade to a Japanese holding company, Suntory, and they continue to own the brand today.

An early ad for Lucozade (completely with dodgy medicinal claims) can be seen below in this tweet from Newcastle Castle:


Why Do People Bring Lucozade to Hospitals?

Even though we now know there's little to no evidence to support the idea that Lucozade helps promote health and recovery, it's still tradition to offer it to people who are sick or in hospital. For generations of Brits who've grown to associate it with a period of convalescence, the familiar beverage stirs up memories of childhood and being cared for – even if it has no medical benefit.

With that in mind, you could argue that Lucozade DOES benefit those in hospital, simply because they know someone cares enough to visit and bring a well-meaning gift. 

Is Lucozade Sold in America?

A few other flavours of Lucozade on offer (links below)

You CAN get Lucozade Original and other flavours in the US, but it probably won't be as simple as heading down to a local shop (assuming your local shop isn't a British goods store). 

Depending on how many bottles you want, you have a couple of options for buying Lucozade original from the US:

Other flavours are also available: 

Although Amazon is often cheaper at lower quantities (especially if all you want is a single bottle and no other products), we love stocking up on loads of British essentials at British Corner Shop. If you make good use of the flat-rate shipping for up to 15kg of items, it can be pretty reasonable (as imported specialty items go, anyway). 

Lucozade in British TV…

Nurse Crane tells an expectant mother that while there's no champagne on ice, she has Lucozade

Since we also run a British TV site, we like to point out examples of uniquely British products, phrases, and traditions when they pop up in different shows. 

  • Call the Midwife – In season 8, episode 1, there's a scene in which Nurse Crane tells a soon-to-be mum that while there's no champagne on ice, they do have Lucozade on hand. Watch it on Netflix. 
  • Two Doors Down – In season 3, episode 2, there's an episode in which a character's routine medical checks result in a tear to his “bum lining” and he's kept in hospital as a precaution. When his friends come to visit, they bring Maltesers, a magazine, and a bottle of one – mentioning that they thought about Lucozade but it didn't have any alcohol in it. Watch it on DVD (you'll need a region-free DVD player to do so). 
  • Inside No. 9 – In season 7, episode 1 (“Merrily, Merrily”), old friends meet for a reunion at a remote lake. One friend expresses regret that he didn't finish his course in sports science, saying he could have made something of himself. His friend, a doctor, replies back, “You can't possibly compare me doing seven years of medical training to you playing rounders and learning about Lucozade.” Watch it on BritBox
  • Midsomer Murders – In season 3, episode 2 (“Blue Herrings”), a murder suspect expresses concern that Sister Lovelace might have suspected him of “pills in the Lucozade” to kill his ailing mother. Watch it HERE
  • People Just Do Nothing – In season 3, episode 6, the lack of a bottle of Lucozade alerts a character to the fact that he's picked up someone else's bag.   Watch it HERE.
  • Bad Sisters – In season 1, episode 7, a character is in the hospital for a CT scan after a fall. When suspicion falls on the man in her life, they ask where he's gotten off to and she tells them he's in the gift shop. Their reply? “What, because a Lucozade and a bunch of grapes will make this all better?”  Watch it on Apple TV+.

Lucozade Does TV…

If the shows above aren't enough for you, you might also be interested to know that Lucozade made their OWN TV show, Razor Sharp, in 2022. The game show featured appearances from comedians like Nick Helm, Guz Khan, and Katherine Ryan.

Contestants are blindfolded and driven to an unknown location where they're immediately pushed into real-world situations where they have to improvise. All episodes are (legally) available on YouTube, and we've included one below to get you started. It sees two comedians attempting to sell a house – but things keep going wrong.