Why is Fanta so much more popular abroad than in the United States?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Aug. 5 2010 3:58 PM

Why Do Foreigners Like Fanta So Much?

A brief global history of sweet fizz.

U.S. Fanta.
U.S. Fanta

Kenyans headed to the polls Wednesday to approve a new constitution. Some feared a repeat of the tumultuous 2007 election, when more than 1,000 people died in ethnic violence. But the process was peaceful enough to allow street vendors, who stayed home three years ago, to s ell cold bottles of Fanta to queued-up voters. Fanta is the second-highest selling soda in most of Africa, trailing only Coca-Cola. Europeans and Latin Americans love the stuff, too. In the United States, it's in eighth place. Why is Fanta so much more popular abroad than in the United States?

Marketing and history. Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi debuted in the United States around the turn of the 20th century. Orange Fanta, which the Coca-Cola company introduced to Europe in 1955, didn't become widely available in the United States until the 1960s, because company executives feared it would undermine the strong position of their flagship cola. Fanta limped along with little marketing support and relatively poor sales until the mid-1980s, when Coca-Cola stopped selling it nationwide. (It remained available in regions with large immigrant populations, where families would recognize the fizzy orange beverage from their birth countries.) It went national again in 2001, and a comparatively strong marketing campaign has moved it from negligible sales volume in the 1990s to its current spot in the Top 10.

Advertisement

The original Fanta was a Nazi product. When Pearl Harbor ended the flow of Coca-Cola syrup to German bottlers, German Coca-Cola chief Max Keith—who sported a tiny Hitler-style mustache and celebrated the Führer's 50th birthday at company conventions—formulated an alternative. He blended together an ever-changing combination of dregs, like leftovers from cheese production, the fibrous remains of apples that had been pressed for cider, and whatever surplus fruit he could acquire from Italy. He sweetened the soft drink with saccharin and named it Fanta, after the German word for fantasy or imagination. It sold well, especially once food became scarce and buyers began using Fanta as a soup base. When the international parent company reunited with its German branch after the war, it discontinued Fanta.

Ten years later, Coca-Cola faced a crisis. Pepsi had started introducing different beverage flavors in the 1950s, but other than the Fanta anomaly, Coke had only ever sold one product (in either 6.5-ounce glass bottles or from the fountain). To better compete, the company revived the Fanta name in 1955 and marketed the new orange recipe across Europe. It soon expanded Fanta to Africa, Asia, and Latin America and added many new flavors to the Fanta portfolio, but it never pushed the product enthusiastically in the United States.

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Like  Slate and the Explainer on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Learns That Breaking Up a Country Is Hard to Do

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 19 2014 12:33 PM The Precarious Predicament of Russia’s Neighbors
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 12:09 PM How Accelerators Have Changed Startup Funding
  Life
The Vault
Sept. 19 2014 12:08 PM The CIA Used to Have a Commute-by-Canoe Club. One Member’s Memories.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 12:10 PM Watch the Trailer for Big Eyes, a Tim Burton Movie About People With Normal-Sized Eyes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 12:38 PM Forward, March! Nine leading climate scientists urge you to attend the People’s Climate March.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 12:13 PM The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola  The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.