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French soda Orangina marks 75 years of ad fizz

Orangina, a Mediterranean soft drink story from post-war France and now a global brand with decades of powerful advertising, is marking 75 years of fizz.

French soda Orangina marks 75 years of ad fizz
Cyclone Bill

The brand, and its orange-shaped bottle, has built up a global presence since the post-World War II consumer boom in France in the 1950s and 1960s.

For French consumers from that period it is redolent of cliches of the good times after wartime hardships: summer holidays as often portrayed in the rising film industry.

It is also a formidable story of business success.

The drink was born on the southern banks of the Mediterranean, in pre-independence Algeria.

Leon Beton created “the soda from Naranjina”, in 1936 based on a recipe developed by a pharmacist in Valencia, Spain, mixing orange concentrate, sugar, and essential oils.

The concoction was intended as medicinal drink, much like its American cousin Coca-Cola a half a century before.

But World War II stopped the project in its tracks.

When peace returned, Beton’s son Jean Claude took over the business.

His company, Noranjina North Africa, produced the concentrate and advertising and partners were left to handle the rest.

Immediately, Beton looked to leisure and sun for inspiration.

The bottle — to the frustration of bottlers —  was round with the rough texture of an orange. The young entrepreneur, described alternatively as authoritarian and charming, insisted on his vision.

Poster advertising featured bright orange slices as beach umbrellas against skies of deep pure blue.

The French population in Algeria, before the country gained independence, soon took to the flavour, the sparkle and the message.

When the war of independence took hold, the brand crossed the Mediterranean and rode the wave of France’s booming youth culture.

Beton hired students to consume the drink conspicuously at cafe tables, and soldiers coming home from war provided a marketing push too.

In 1957, 50 million bottles were sold and in 1975, ten times more.

Advertising was the key, with TV advertising replacing the posters of the 1950s.

Innovative and irreverent promotion kept the brand popular with a new generation of young people, as France entered a new period of change after 1968.

The success was huge and over the years, the family business became a mouth-watering corporate target.

In 1985, Beton sold Orangina to drinks giant Pernod Ricard, and retired to the wine business in France’s Bordeaux region where he still works today.

Over the years, Orangina changed hands frequently and belongs today to Japanese conglomerate Suntory.

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FOOD & DRINK

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

READ ALSO 7 tips for buying cheese in France

The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!

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