For those besotted by the Fantanas — the synthetic girl group pitching Fanta soft drinks — news August 5 that the sugary sodas have Nazi origins left a sour aftertaste. In an otherwise innocuous dispatch about Fanta’s popularity overseas, the online magazine Slate slipped in the factoid that “the original Fanta was a Nazi product” created by a German Coca-Cola Co. executive who “sported a tiny Hitler-style mustache.”
But Slate had actually scooped itself back in 2002, when then-advertising columnist Rob Walker deconstructed Fanta as parent Coca-Cola Co. was preparing to revive the defunct brand. Fanta’s origins, he wrote, lay partly in the unpopularity of foreign-owned firms in Nazi Germany. Both stories relied on the same book to reveal Fanta’s DNA: Mark Pendergrast’s “For God, Country, and Coca-Cola,” was originally published in 1998 and hailed by The Washington Post as “an encyclopedic history of Coke and its subculture.”
Regardless of all the exposure, Fanta’s brand doesn’t seem to have suffered. “In cases where the connection to something awful is in the definitive past, it doesn’t have much impact,” said Walker, now the writer of the New York Times Magazine’s Consumed column and the author of the 2008 book “Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are,” to the Forward via e-mail. “Wasn’t the Volkswagen a Nazi car?”
Nor has guilt by association been a problem for Fanta 70 years later, he said. “I don’t think people are scandalized by that. And I assume that’s because nobody concludes that anyone involved in making or selling Volkswagens or Fanta today are secretly Nazi sympathizers.”
A spokesman for Coca-Cola said the company would decline comment about the Fanta kerfuffle.