Fanta Über Alles
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because bad guys get thirsty, too.
By Eugene S. Robinson
“Thanks” is a really the wrong expression to use whenever National Socialism and its advocates, the Nazis, come up, but when it comes to light, fruity, citrus-y soda treats? We might have to break that rule. Kind of like we do with Volkswagen, Hugo Boss suits and, some would claim, inflatable sex dolls.
Loose lips could sink ships, and in World War II the Allied war effort was tight-lipped about everything that could give the enemy comfort: up to and including Coca-Cola, the fizzy beverage. Today, Coca-Cola the company is a ubiquitous powerhouse that amassed $46.9 billion in revenue last year, but back in 1940 the rather successful German branch of the Atlanta operation found it couldn’t circumvent a wartime trade embargo on the syrup that makes Coca-Cola coca-cola-esque.
Back then, it could taste like whatever fruit was handy.
Enter Max Keith.
Not a Nazi party member but the top man at Coca-Cola Deutschland at the time, Keith had a great “screw it” moment in which he decided to create a new drink out of the stuff he had at hand: apple fiber and other fruity pomaces from cider presses, and whey, a cheese byproduct. Though the fruit flavoring is now orange inspired, back then, it could taste like whatever fruit was handy.
Fanta even got its own Vine comedy series this year.
The effect, outside of slaking the Wehrmacht’s thirst for carbonated drinks, was rather comfortably corporate. Fanta — shortened from fantasy and chosen during an employee brainstorm — ended up keeping German cola factories open during the war even without support or basic communication with Atlanta headquarters, and thus made it possible for Coca-Cola to regain their post-war footing even faster. Fanta’s reward? It was discontinued.
But it was a short-lived interregnum, since Coke brought the brand back in 1955 to join in the continuing battle royale with Pepsi. Since then the updated, no-longer-leftover-flavored drink has enjoyed if not total, then at least partial, world domination. Available in over 90 flavors all over the world, it’s one of Coke’s four leading brands and the ninth most popular soft drink in America.
All because, in those places and spaces that existed well beyond the newsreel remembrances, the U.S. wouldn’t let Coca-Cola send their secret recipe for a soft drink flavor to Germany. Actions, unintended consequences and full-bodied fruity flavors? Makes sense to us.
This story has been changed to cite the correct year that Fanta was invented in Germany.