History of the Soft Drink Fanta
There are some who claim that Fanta, a popular soft drink produced and distributed by the Coca-Cola company, was actually invented by Nazis during the Third Reich. Others go so far as the say that Coca-Cola produced this product themselves to sell in Nazi Germany when they feared the backlash that might come if they marketed Coca-Cola to both Allied and Axis powers at the same time. Is there any truth to these accusations?
Coca-Cola was a tremendously popular beverage in post-war Germany. Germany was its most successful market and many people, including the Nazi’s enjoyed it. That did not end with the beginning of World War II, although the Coca-Cola company in Germany found it increasingly difficult to procure the necessary ingredients to make the beverage. When the American born director of the German Coca-Cola company died in 1938, the German born Max Keith took over. Max Keith is the man who invented Fanta.
The war had essentially isolated the German branch of the Coca-Cola company from Atlanta and from the rest of the world. Thus, the only way that Keith could communicate with the company’s headquarters was through Coca-Cola’s Swiss company. Although this connection through a neutral country allowed some limited communication with the company’s headquarters, Keith could not use it to obtain the necessary ingredients for making the popular beverage. He had to come up with something else.
What he came up with is what we now call Fanta. It is called that because when telling his employes to let their imaginations (“fantasies” in German) run wild, someone offered that “fanta” itself would be a good name.
The beverage was originally made with what limited ingredients Keith had at his disposal. For example, he used whey, a byproduct of making cheese, and apple fiber, a byproduct of making cider. He also used a sugar substitute and whatever fruits he could obtain. The necessity of having to use different fruits as necessary accounts for the great variety of fruit flavors we still see in Fanta today.
By this time, the German government had placed Keith in charge of all of Coca-Cola’s properties in Germany and all occupied countries. Thus, he was in a powerful position to make a serious profit himself, if he wanted. He could have continued bottling under his own name and made himself rich. He proved a good steward of the company, however, and kept the company going during the war, saving many jobs. At the same time, Keith refused to join the Nazi party even though under pressure to do so.
Fanta did not come out of the war spotless, however. The German Coca-Cola company probably used forced labor during the later years of the war. It also gave German soldier the last of the original Coca-Cola it had in 1941 and advertised with the Nazi party extensively prior to and during World War II.
It is difficult to say, however, what Keith should have done during the war. If he had not cooperated with the Nazi government, he would have been simply removed and replaced with someone who would probably not have been as good a steward of the company as he was. After the war, he handed his profits back to the Coca-Cola company who bought the recipe for Fanta in 1960. It has been distributing Fanta ever since.
So the Coca-Cola company itself did not make the product for the Nazis nor was it invented by a Nazi. It was invented by the German head of the Coca-Cola company during the war when he could no longer produce Coca-Cola. Nazis may have been among those to whom he marketed the new product, but it was not designed specifically for them.