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Fanta the Bear
One of the strangest sites in Germany during the war years was certainly a 6 foot tall Polar bear visiting the troops and civilians alike. The bear was named Fanta and it was the mascot of the Fanta soft drink company. "Prior to the outbreak of the second world war, Coca-Cola's only unqualified success on the international scene was its bottling operations in Nazi Germany. Sales records were being set year after year in that venue, and by 1939 Coca-Cola had 43 bottling plants and more than 600 local distributors in that country." With the United States' entry into WWII Coca Cola cut off all supplies of the Syrup needed to make Coke. The president of the German Coca-Cola Company, Max Keith, "had chemists concoct a soda that was vaguely similar to Coke, caffeinated and with an unidentifiable blend of tastes. But rather than being made with the secret 7X Coke flavoring, this product was made from the leftovers from other food industries, mostly scraps from produce markets. This was usually fruit pulp, like apple fibers from cider pressing and whey, the liquid byproduct of cheese curdling. The resulting liquid was a translucent beige that more closely resembled today's ginger ale. Keith asked his sales team to explore their fantasies while inventing a name, and the drink was christened...Fanta. The name was a hit." After the war in 1955 and Italian version of Fanta was introduced to the market. It was Orange falvored and fizzy and what we know today as Orange Fanta (from which all modern Fanta flavors are derived.)
In a stroke of marketing genius the company hired Steiff (the German company that invented th Teddy Bear) to make a number of life size Polar Bear costumes that began to appear all over the country. What is unclear to me is when did this happen? If we follow the pure Coca-Cola cut off ties when America entered the war we have a neat little package. However that woudl be after Devember 7, 1941. However there are numerous pictures that appear to predate Pearl Harbor and show many Fanta Bears in pre-war settings. One thing is certain however is once Fanta the Bear appeared on the scene he stayed. In its original form the Bear costume can be seen making appearences until the mid 1960s and its adoption as the Christmas mascot for Coca Cola goes on until this day. So next time you have a drink of Orange Fanta remember that it has it's origins in Nazi Germany and the next time you see those cute Christmas Coca-Cola polar bears in their Christmas advertisements remember the name Fanta and his trips to the German front lines of WWII.
These photographs and information were taken from a number of online sources and auction sites. They are presented here for educational purposes.
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