For years I had an Orangina tin poster on my wall. My wife must have bought it at Ikea or somewhere. We weren’t fans of the drink; we just liked the illustration, and its clever use of an orange peel in place of an orange.
Little did I know then that this was one of many branding coups by the late Jean-Claude Beton, the father of the Orangina brand as we know it today. With his beverage consisting of just 12% orange juice, French law mandated the company’s ads have no oranges in them. But Beton recognized the genius of illustrator Bernard Villemot’s workaround, to use an orange peel, popping against its complementary color, a bright blue background, elevating Orangina from mere orange juice into something more.
In the video above, you can sense just how much reverence Beton had for his product. As a child, he’d been more interested in wine than the family business of oranges, which makes it particularly salient when he calls Orangina “the champagne of soft drinks” with a smile. That reverence for his own product led him to showcase the drink in an impractical, expensive, and totally distinctive bottle.
“They say it has a waist like a wasp and the bottom of a princess,” Beton delighted in 2009, apparently maintaining a level of self-satisfaction nearly 60 years after the bottle’s introduction. With an elegant teardrop shape and the whimsical texture of an orange, it was only available at French cafes, where it was the eye-catching, bulky bane of refrigerators to be sure. This model of premium merchant exclusivity, however, would be used to introduce drinks like Red Bull decades later.
The French Army developed a taste for Orangina during World War II, and as French society recovered from its horrors, Orangina offered a comforting indulgence wrapped in a brand of optimism. It’s hard to imagine us saying the same thing about Coke, Budweiser, or any of the dozens of vodkas vying for our attention through experimental packaging and branding efforts. Maybe that’s because Orangina was always something special. Or more likely, maybe that’s because Jean-Claude Beton was something special.