Embargo Elixir

Fanta, the fruity flavored soda, is sold in more than fifty countries. There are nearly 100 different flavors available, ranging from Lychee (in Cambodia and formerly in Thailand) and Lactic White Grape (Taiwan) to Watermelon Splash (parts unknown) and something called Shokata (Maldives). Its original flavor, created in 1940, was orange and for years, was only available in Europe. But it has taken the world by storm since.

And it probably would not have happened but for a Nazi embargo.

Coca-Cola, which now owns Fanta, had a large bottling and distribution business in Germany in the 1930s. But it was soon at risk. Few tactics were ruled out as Europe entered into war in the late 1930s, and economic restrictions were certainly among those used. Germany disallowed the importation of goods from Western Europe, and the Coca-Cola plants were unable to import the ingredients used to make the world-famous cola. So Max Keith, a German-born executive in charge of Coke’s German footprint, made do with what was available. Pickings were slim. According to Snopes, Keith took whatever he could get — apple fibers left over from cider making; whey, a cheese byproduct; beet sugar (as cane sugar was highly rationed); and certainly a litany of other things which us Westerners would be horrified to know our grandparents probably imbibed. (According to Wikipedia, Keith later called the ingredients the “leftovers of the leftovers.”)

Despite the rank poor ingredients, the drink was, somehow, popular. Some suggest that the fact that Fanta was sweet was enough, as bakers and housewives used it as a sugar substitute due to the above-mentioned rations. Others simply believed the beverage tasted good — a fruity and bubbly escape from a world at war. In any event, the soft drink — and therefore, Coca-Cola’s German infrastructure — survived the war.

And the world has a hundred or so fruity flavors to thank for it.

Bonus fact: Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was born in Germany in 1927 and turned 13 years old in 1940 — and, therefore, came of age in the early days of Fanta. Now known better as Pope Benedict XVI, Ratzinger’s love of the orange soda perseveres. In 2008, the Daily Mail reported that the Pope drinks four cans of Fanta a day.

From the ArchivesCola Enforcement Agency: About the ingredients in another Coke product.

RelatedShokata Fanta, in case you want to give it a try.

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