Fun Friday Fact #10

Fanta was invented by the Coca-Cola company to sell in Nazi Germany during the Second World War, because the Allies wouldn’t allow the import to Germany of the syrup needed to make Coke.

It must be true because Wikipedia says so. Apparently we have a certain Mr. Max Keith to thank for the refreshing orange drink. Mr. Keith, as you well know, was of course the man in charge of the German branch of the Coca-Cola company at the time. It seems he was unwilling to be put off by such a trivial thing as a World War, and, keen as ever to make some money, he decided to create a new product for the German market, using only ingredients available in Germany at the time (i.e. next to nothing) including whey and pomace – the “leftovers of leftovers”, as he later recalled. The name was the result of a brief brainstorming session, which started with Keith exhorting his team to “use their imagination” (“Fantasie” in German), to which one of his salesmen, Joe Knipp, banterously retorted “Fanta!” In other news, the German Fanta Klare Zitrone (“Clear Lemon Fanta”) variety became Sprite, another of the company’s bestsellers and its response to 7 Up.

But Coke’s relationship with the Second World War doesn’t end here. Oh no. The American salesmen were just as canny as their German counterparts. Before the outbreak of war, Coke was already a symbol of the American dream. Many GIs wrote home listing the drink as one of the things about home they most missed (losers). In response to this (or more likely because he got the sniff for a massive financial opportunity) Coca-Cola CEO Robert Woodruff made a point of supporting US troops, sending an order to: “See that ever man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca Cola for 5 cents wherever he is and whatever the cost to the company.”  Metal cans were introduced to meet the troops’ needs, and when the US Army landed in North Africa in 1943  3 complete Coca Cola bottling plants were brought ashore. 148 of Coke’s employees were sent abroad to oversee the installation and management of these plants. They were given US Army uniforms with the rank of Technical Observer and were treated as officers, although they had no military duties to speak of. They were affectionately known as the “Coca-Cola Colonels.”

The GI’s loved it. After all, how bad could a war be when a man was fighting the Italians and had a belly full of sugar? But at the same time as boosting the morale of American fighting forces, the  Coca-Cola company was slyly laying the groundwork for becoming an international symbol of refreshment and solidarity. Many of the bottling plants established overseas during the war continued to operate as non-military factories after the war’s end. Furthermore, GI’s liberating towns throughout Europe or working side-by-side with locals in the Philippines felt pride in sharing their favourite drink with their new-found friends. They thereby created an enormous consumer base throughout the world that would not have been possible without the Coca-Cola Company’s cooperation in working towards bettering the morale of the American fighting man. I suppose you can’t blame them really. And I do love me some Fanta.

A young boy and a bulldozer operator with the 64th Seabees enjoy a coke or two in Tubabao, Samar, the Philippines.

Well isn’t that nice?



Filed under The Second World War - Fun Friday Facts, Trivia

7 responses to “Fun Friday Fact #10

  1. LOVE this story! I didn’t realize the history of these popular drinks! Now I know why they have created so many commercials with the message of world peace in them. Look up “I’d like to give the world a Coke!”

  2. Yes, our troops fought for freedom and for Coca Cola – freedom and fizz!

  3. I love Fanta; hate Nazis. You sum up all of life in this post 😉

  4. Fascinating! It *almost* makes me sorry I gave it up.

  5. mefinx

    Fascinating! What brilliant marketing. My first memory of CocaCola advertising is the New Seekers warbling, “I’d like to teach the world to sing” – which now seems all the more appropriate.

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