What’s the Difference Between American and European Fanta?

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What’s the Difference Between American and European Fanta?

Ten years ago, on my first trip outside of the United States, I stood bleary-eyed at an Italian train station at 7 a.m., ready to catch a train “home” from a weekend traveling to the village I was staying in for the summer while I studied. I had woken up 30 minutes earlier after a handful of hours in bed, and my plan was to fall promptly back asleep after boarding the train and showing the conductor that I had, despite the language barrier, actually purchased the correct ticket.

I needed something to drink, but keen as I was to fall back asleep, the seemingly ubiquitous doppio didn’t seem like a great idea. I walked to the train station café anyway and took stock of the different options before me. It was then that I witnessed a sight I will never forget: a bottle of orange Fanta, but not like any Fanta I’d ever seen in the past. The liquid in the bottle was devoid of the neon orange potion I had pounded back at every opportunity as a child and was instead a watery yellow color. It looked, frankly, like orange juice.

I was sure I wasn’t going to enjoy this strange, anemic-looking Fanta, but I ordered it anyway out of a burning curiosity. Why did it look like that? What did it even taste like? And did Italians actually buy this stuff? After rummaging in my purse for the correct combination of coins, I unscrewed the cap of the bottle, brought it to my lips and took a swift, cursory swig. I was shocked. This orange Fanta, this oddly watery soda, somehow tasted better than the nuclear waste-colored version I’d grown up with all my life. Who could’ve guessed that toxic-looking artificial dyes don’t actually make soda taste better?

If you’re from the U.S. like me and have ventured to Europe only to discover the scandalous discrepancy between the orange Fanta found in your local convenience store and the stuff you can buy on the other side of the world, then you understand my shock. But there are reasons why the Fanta I had in Italy that time was so unlike any other I’d had in the U.S.

It turns out that Coca-Cola, Fanta’s parent company, adjusts the recipe for its orange Fanta depending on the country in which the product is being sold. They do this both to appeal to different consumer tastes in different parts of the world but also to comply with local food regulations. Even within Europe, different countries will sell slightly altered versions of the soft drink, so your orange Fanta will taste different in England than it will in Italy. (Italian Fanta contains almost three times as much sugar as England’s does.) Italian Fanta looks like orange juice because it actually contains orange juice. Here in the U.S., we’re just drinking that good old high-fructose corn syrup.

Admittedly, even after discovering the joys of Italian Fanta, I still enjoy the violently colored, sans-juice version at home. There’s something comforting about that unnaturally bright color, something that stokes a sense of nostalgia when I can manage to quiet my frustration regarding corrupt U.S. food policy. But I’ve been back to Italy once since my summer semester abroad, and the first thing I did after sitting down at an outdoor café was order a Fanta, confident that I would yet again feel the pleasure of that first sip of bubbly orange juice that’s impossible to find in the U.S. This, my friends, is the pinnacle of culinary travel.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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