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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

Does Beaujolais Nouveau wine deserve its bad reputation?

Beaujolais Nouveau wine suffers from a number of negative stereotypes - but are these rumours more fiction than fact?

Does Beaujolais Nouveau wine deserve its bad reputation?

Each year – on the third Thursday of November – people across the world celebrate one thing, and it is not Thanksgiving. It is the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau, a French wine coming from the east of France, south of the wine growing region of Burgundy.

The release of the Beaujolais Nouveau vintage brings with it lots of celebration – four days of it in the Beaujolais region itself. The vintage is then shipped far and wide for people to consume, more often than not at a very affordable price of just a few euros. 

READ MORE: Beaujolais Nouveau: 13 things you need to know about France’s famous wine

Unfortunately, however, the light, red wine also has suffered from a negative reputation. Critics (or perhaps just those who have drunk too many glasses) say it gives you a hangover, tastes terrible (apparently similar to bananas to some), and above all that it is low-quality.

But to Rod Phillips, wine expert and author of “French Wine: A History”, Beaujolais Nouveau is “young, fruity, bright, cheerful.” 

Phillips went on to say that it is “not a wine to discuss or contemplate,” but “that doesn’t make it bad wine. It’s different from structured, more subtle and nuanced wines.”

For Caroline Conner, sommelier and head of Lyon Wine Tastings, Beaujolais Nouveau is “really fun” and highly encourages people to give the wine a chance, particularly from local producers. 

You can hear Caroline Conner discuss Beaujolais Nouveau in the new episode of the Talking France podcast. Download here or listen below.

Conner explained the stories of Beaujolais Nouveau wine causing hangovers has nothing to do with the way the wine is made, or even how quickly it is produced –  using grapes that were harvested just a few months before being bottled. 

“It’s not about the technique, it’s because most of it is mass produced. Any mass produced wine is probably going to give you a hangover,” the sommelier explained. 

Of course hangovers also depend on how much you drink – of any wine.

According to Rod Phillips, the stereotype that Beaujolais wine is of poor quality stretches back hundreds of years.

“The region had a setback in the Middle Ages and took a long time to recover,” explained Phillips.

In 1395, the Duke of Burgundy issued an edict – grapes from the Gamay vine were “injurious to the human creature” and wine that came from them had “terrible bitterness.” He is even thought to have said that the vine itself was an “evil and disloyal plant.”

According to Phillips, this decree was in the Duke’s interest: “He was protecting pinot noir, which was used for Burgundy’s already-famous wines.

More and more producers were growing Gamay because it had a higher yield, so made more and cheaper wine. They appealed to the Duke to ban Gamay and he obliged in terms that produced an enduring belief that Gamay was an inferior wine.”

This impacted Beaujolais wine because it is produced from that same “disloyal plant” – the Gamay grape. It was not until after the second World War that Beaujolais red wine grew in popularity outside of eastern France.

In the 1970s and 80s, the wine had a surge in popularity, with the start of the Beaujolais Nouveau phenomenon, and the mass production of the wine to be cheaply sent across the world. 

Conner described Beaujolais Nouveau as a “big party” at that time, with celebrations from London to Japan. While it has decreased in popularity in recent years, the third Thursday of November remains an important date in the French calendar.

What about the other Beaujolais wines?

Both wine experts also pointed to the fact that Beaujolais Nouveau is not the only wine to come out of the region. 

“There are a lots of different tiers of quality,” said Conner, adding that the Nouveau only accounts for about 20 percent of production. “The rest of Beaujolais wine is quite different.”

Phillips echoed these sentiments, noting an improvement in quality for other “Beaujolais Crus.”

“More recently people have discovered the 10 Beaujolais Crus (Morgon, Chénas, Brouilly, etc.) which are a real step up in quality,” he said. “There’s a sense in which Beaujolais Nouveau was a drag on the high quality wines of the region because it was associated with inexpensive, easy-drinking wines.”

And as for Beaujolais Nouveau itself, “it’s not all cheap and mass produced,” according to Conner.

If you really want to enjoy a good Beaujolais Nouveau, the sommelier recommends going “to a good caviste or a good restaurant” and drinking wine that was made by a “small producer.”

How much should you spend to get a really good bottle? Conner suggests 20 euros believing you’ll get far more value for money if you spend that amount on a Beaujolais rather than a Burgundy – which you pay a premium on because of its famous name

“You’ll find some excellent value,” she promised.

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