Saturday, February 18, 2023


“Lilt matters. Show me someone who hasn’t had a hangover turned around after drinking a Lilt and I’ll show you a liar”, wrote Esther Watson on the website of news magazine “The Spectator” on Valentine’s Day. “No, this is a disaster for people of good taste, never mind the woke-or-not debates.”


Earlier the same day, The Coca-Cola Company announced that the drink they introduced in 1975 (which I mentioned when talking about Tizer) will be rebranded as “Fanta Pineapple & Grapefruit”, after a few months of using altered the fruit-flavoured soda range’s branding, being labelled as “by Fanta”, and switching to use Fanta’s moulded bottles. 


The drink itself remains untouched, but Watson was not reassured: “How can these people expect us loyal Lilt drinkers to trust them when they didn’t even have the decency to give us advanced warning of their plans and time to come to terms with this shock – and, more importantly, stockpile?” I don’t know if Watson’s touch was in her cheek as she wrote, later saying that Fanta – “a silly brand and mediocre at best” - didn’t taste of pineapple or grapefruit, as if the point of the announcement had been missed accidentally, or for effect. I don’t expect Fanta Lemon to taste of pineapple.


Elsewhere, Nels Abbey wrote in “The Guardian” that Lilt “could not have been less authentic as a ‘taste of the tropics’ if it wore fake dreadlocks and called itself Bob Marley Brew”, while cheese maker and Blur bassist Alex James wrote in “The Sun” – in an article that erroneously claimed Coca-Cola had bought the brand – talked about other brands that should be brought back, like Spangles and Panda Pops. This is on top of various people on social media saying their life had been ruined, and further misunderstanding that it is the drink that is being discontinued, not the brand.


I will not lament about progress. This happened in September 2022 when BBC Radio 5 Live dropped the Saturday classified football results [link], a moment to deplore change, followed by everyone moving on. The same will happen here – no-one dashed their brains out when Marathon chocolate bars were renamed to Snickers, and people still bought Opal Fruits when they became Starburst.  


My comedy song “Nostalgia’s Gonna Get You” [link] features the line “Quatro soda, still alive” for all the reasons shown above. Quatro was on sale during the 1980s, and was a carbonated soft drink made of pineapple, grapefruit, orange and passion fruit. Many similar drinks are available under brands like Rubicon and Rio. Even people who think Lilt has been discontinued can buy Caribbean Crush, with pineapple, grapefruit and mango, by Levi Roots, he of the Reggae Reggae Sauce, and with a greater claim to the tropical imagery previously used to advertise Lilt.


Because it is only the name that is changing, talking about Lilt in the sense that is going away almost feels like it has been anthropomorphised, imbuing it with a soul to then be taken away. Products change their names all the time, either out of necessity – Uncle Ben’s rice becoming Ben’s Original, or Aunt Jemima becoming the Pearl Milling Company – or when a product is improved, like Sibbs SR toothpaste eventually becoming Mentadent P.


The only way I can reconcile this thought is people placing the product or brand into their own history, with its demise amounting to a rewriting of history. Again, Lilt has not been “cancelled” in this regard. Coca-Cola’s press release about the name change mentioned that Lilt was the number 2 carbonated tropical drink in the UK, so not enough people were buying it to make it number 1. If those nostalgic enough for Lilt still bought it, would it have stayed?

I am not a fan of grapefruit, so I have rarely tried Lilt. Coca-Cola sell a Piña Colada-flavoured Fanta in the United States – can I have that instead? 

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