Fanta: The Humble Beginnings of a Worldwide Phenomenon

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Fanta: The Humble Beginnings of a Worldwide Phenomenon

Fanta Bottle

Fanta Soda

There have been all kinds of stories about Fanta’s creation in Nazi Germany during WWII. Some of what has been said is true— a great deal is fiction.

Prior to the breakout of the war, Germany was the location of The Coca-Cola Company’s greatest overseas success. Records for sales were set year after year. By 1939, there were 43 bottling plants and more than 600 local distributors.

The German branch of The Coca-Cola Company had been run by an American-born man by the name of Ray Powers. He was killed in a car accident in 1938 and was replaced by the German-born Max Keith. As the new CEO, Keith was entrusted with all the operations for The Coca-Cola Company in all the occupied countries.

During the war, Keith was able to maintain a degree of contact with the Atlanta-based headquarters of The Coca-Cola Company via Switzerland. But by 1941 he was no longer able to receive Coca-Cola syrup, and was therefore unable to continue to manufacture Coca-Cola.

Keith’s solution to the ingredient shortage was to invent a new drink. It was made from what was available at the time, namely things left over from other food industries. There was whey, which was a byproduct of cheese production and apple fiber left over from cider presses. A variety of other fruit byproducts were added depending on what was available at the time. This led to the many variations in flavor that later became the different marketed flavors of Fanta. This new soft drink was sweetened with beet sugar. As CEO, Keith held a contest to name his new creation. He instructed his employees to let their “Fantasie”—German for “imaginations”—run wild. A salesman, Joe Knipp immediately blurted out “Fanta”!

Fanta Orange

Fanta Bright Orange Flavor: "From the same company that bottles Coca-Cola"

The new soft drink was not only successful enough to keep the bottling plants open and the people employed for the duration of the war, but enabled Fanta to become a soft drink favorite in Europe. In 1943 there were 3 million cases of Fanta sold in Germany and the occupied countries. Evidently, not all of that quantity was purchased to drink as a refreshing soft drink, but may have been used to flavor soups and stews, due to sugar rationing.

Max Keith was not a Nazi, and never became one, as has been rumored. Although he suffered hardships as a result of his decision, he never gave into pressure to join the Nazi Party. With the success of Fanta, Keith was able to safeguard The Coca-Cola Company’s interests in Europe until after the war, when they were able to re-establish drink production almost immediately.

The Coca-Cola Company acquired the rights to Fanta in 1960. Today, Fanta is sold in the highest volume in Brazil, Germany, Spain, Japan, Italy and Argentina. Fanta was originally created in an orange flavor that now accounts for 70% of all Fanta sales.

Fanta is sold in 188 countries and is available in 70 flavors, although some flavors are only available in the country where they are manufactured. Fanta is the number one soft drink in Thailand, and a new flavor was just launched in Japan—Fanta Japanese Melon.

What’s your favorite Fanta flavor?

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Last updated: Jun 05, 2008
Filed under: Soda Pop, Vintage Vending Archives Tagged with: retro soda, Soda Pop, WWII