There are few people who haven’t heard of Fanta. It’s one of the world’s most popular soft drinks and a beloved staple at kids’ birthday parties. Despite its huge brand recognition, many people don’t realise that the product originated in Nazi Germany – just like the Volkswagen Beetle.
On the official Fanta website, Coca-Cola describes the soft drink thusly:
Bright, bubbly and popular, Fanta Orange is a soft drink with a tingly, fruity taste, made with 2 per cent juice and contains no artificial colours or flavours.
Introduced in 1940, Fanta is the second oldest brand of The Coca-Cola Company and our second largest brand outside the US.
Unsurprisingly, there’s no mention of Fanta’s chequered past as a Nazi-era Coke substitute. In the documentary Pepsi vs Cola: The Marketing Battle of the Century, Fanta’s dubious origin is laid out succinctly.
Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Germany was one of the first markets to receive Colca-Cola outside of the US. Germans loved the stuff, and the brand quickly exploded in popularity – it was even an official sponsor of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
Unfortunately for Teutonic cola lovers, a trade embargo for Coca-Cola syrup in 1940 resulted in the drink disappearing from shop shelves.
As a result, the German Coca Cola (GmbH) bottling company was forced to improvise. Its manager, Max Keith, experimented with pretty much anything he could get his hands on, including discarded apple fiber and whey (left over from cider presses and cheese manufacturing, respectively.)
The result was Fanta: a vaguely fruit-flavoured soft drink that bore little resemblance to the version we drink today. Indeed, the flavour would change substantially between batches due to its ever-changing ingredients.
Despite essentially being a mixture of foodstuff dregs, Fanta proved popular with Germans. Unlike swastikas and comical little moustaches, it did not fall out of vogue with the collapse of Nazism but continued to go from strength to strength.
In a reversal of Coke’s entry into Germany, Fanta was brought to the United States at the end of the war, this time with an improved formula and distinct orange colouring. The product is now enjoyed globally in more than 100 different flavours. Not bad for a wartime beverage borne out of necessity.
Hilariously, a tone-deaf German ad for Fanta to mark the drink’s 75th birthday ran with the slogan: “we’re bringing back the feeling of the good old days.”
Needless to say, the campaign was not a success and was quickly discontinued.
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