This is Fanta, one of the world’s most popular soft drinks. Its bright colours and dramatic commercials, which frequently feature a bunch of varied individuals dancing to loud, energetic music, make it immediately recognisable.
The brand portrays itself as multicultural and fun-loving, with the promise of fresh, robust flavours luring customers in. However, did you know that the first bottle of Fanta was manufactured from kitchen scraps? Or the fact that it was created in Nazi Germany?
What brought us here… from here?
In February 1944, Berlin is striving to recover from aerial attacks by the Americans. On the outskirts of the city, though, life and industry continue. Ex-convicts, Chinese laborers, and other workers fill glass bottles with what was most likely a hazy, brownish liquid in farmhouses. This is a homemade Coca-Cola bottling plant producing Nazi Germany’s hallmark beverage. Germans demand Fanta even during wartime.
Coca-Cola, an American corporation, created the soft drink Fanta during World War II in Nazi Germany. The new soda, created during the height of the Third Reich, maintained the brand’s sustained appeal. From the Fraus cooking at home to the top executives of the Nazi party, Fanta became a source of nationalistic pride and was enjoyed by the German population.
Story of Fanta
Coca-Cola had been in Germany for nearly a decade when Hitler and the Third Reich marched into Austria. Dr. John Stith Pemberton created Coke in 1886 and sold it for five cents a glass at a local Atlanta pharmacy. Pemberton was a Confederate Civil War veteran who had been wounded by a sabre. He developed a morphine addiction while healing. Coca-Cola was his attempt to develop an alternative painkiller. It was created from the coca leaf and the kola nut, hence the name.
The coca leaf is utilised in the production of extremely addictive cocaine, which may explain the drink’s rapid growth. Coca-CEO Cola’s boasted in 1895 that the company was present in every state and territory in the United States. In 1920, the company’s first European bottling plant opened in France, and by 1929, Coca-Cola was being bottled and drunk in Germany.
German-born Max Keith (pronounced “Kite”) took over the company’s German business, Coca-Cola GmbH, in 1933, just as Hitler and the Nazi Party were seizing power. Keith was a towering figure, with a “little whisk-broom moustache” (similar to Hitler’s), a smiling but quick-tempered demeanour, and a complete devotion to Coca-Cola. According to Pendergrast, “[Keith] valued his commitment to the drink and the corporation more than his patriotism to his own country.” As a result, he had no problem with associating Coca-Cola with every facet of German society, including, increasingly, Nazi control.
The Coca-Cola Company, directed by Robert Woodruff, did not discourage this in the United States. The Coca-Cola business sponsored the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which Woodruff attended, and produced banners with the Coca-Cola logo and the swastika. Keith utilised a Coca-Cola GmbH 10th anniversary celebration to command a huge Sieg-Heil salute in honour of the dictator’s 50th birthday. This was “to remember our profound admiration for our Fuhrer,” he said.
Coca-Cola wasn’t the only company to ignore Hitler’s growing hostility. Other American sectors, such as Hollywood, ignored Nazi Germany’s human rights violations in order to keep German business.
When the United States entered World War II, all economic dealings with the enemy had to be suspended immediately. Furthermore, the German government threatened to take “enemy-owned” companies. Coca-Atlanta Cola’s headquarters also ceased the export of Coca-7X Cola’s flavour and shut off connections with Keith in Germany (the long-mythicized, top secret formula for Coca-Cola syrup).
Coca-Cola GmbH was about to go bankrupt. Keith couldn’t create Coke, and the Nazi government would seize his cherished business at any time. He did, however, have an idea: he needed a German-specific alternative beverage.
Keith pieced together a recipe with the help of his scientists, working under the constraints of wartime rationing. Fruit shavings, apple fibres and pulp, beet sugar, and whey, the liquid leftover after curdling and straining milk during cheese making, were all used. Keith urged his crew to use their imaginations while naming this concoction. A salesperson named Joe Knipp pitched “Fanta,” an abbreviation for the German term “fantasy.” It stuck.
Coca-Cola GmbH was saved by Fanta. During the conflict, sales gradually increased as other options became increasingly scarce. It wasn’t just inebriated either. Due to severe sugar shortages, Fanta became popular as a sweetener for soups, as the drink’s renown won it an exemption from the rationing after 1941. (though Keith had to use beet sugar). It was probably also used for a range of other cooking and baking tasks.
Keith partially got his desire despite being on the wrong side of history. The Americans in Atlanta lauded him as a hero for keeping the company alive in Germany. Harrison Jones, the company’s VP of Sales, complimented Keith for working under difficult conditions, calling him a “wonderful man.”