The Troubling Wartime Origins Of Fanta

It's hard to think of Fanta without picturing the Fantana sisters singing that catchy "Don't You Wanna Fanta" jingle. Many of the more recent commercials still paint a picture of a good time, including the 2022 Fanta commercial "It's a Grape Thing" that feature women dancing in a hair salon. While this fruit-flavored, refreshing drink exudes fun and light-hearted summertime vibes, its origin wasn't so bright.

This Coca-Cola Company-owned fruit-flavored drink has been around for decades. Now available in nine flavors, it's also one of the most popular carbonated beverages in the United States, even though that's not where it started. In fact, Ranker listed Fanta as the ninth best soda of all time in 2022.

Fanta hit store shelves in the U.S. around 1960, as Coca-Cola Australia explains. But before that, people were drinking it in Europe during World War II, when carbonated beverage options were limited.

Fanta originated in Germany

By the 1930s, Coca-Cola had made its way to Germany after becoming an internationally known brand at the 1928 Olympics, according to Insider. The brand thrived throughout the country, including among the Nazis, with an American man named Max Keith at the helm. But when World War II began, foreign businesses in Germany ended up on the chopping block.

Things got worse when the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1941. Keith was forced to cease production of Coca-Cola products, so he and a chemist came up with a new German beverage, but they were limited on ingredients. Mark Pendergrast, author of "For God, Country, and Coca-Cola," claimed it "was made from the leftovers of the leftovers." Leftover apple fibers, a cheese by-product, beet sugar, and cider press mash, to be more specific (via Atlas Obscura), but Germans loved it.

So although the American Coca-Cola brand halted production, this new concoction got the green light because it originated in Germany. Keith and his team called it Fanta, short for "fantasie," which is German for fantasy. The popular orange flavor didn't surface until 1955, when the product was rebranded in Italy under the Fanta Orange name.

With this change came an ingredient change as well. The scraps were replaced by citrus ingredients. A few years later, Fanta became available in the U.S. and later became the tasty beverage that so many Americans now enjoy drinking and singing about.