Everyone knows someone who likes to bend the rules a bit. Someone who is told to do something one way, but immediately asks "Why?". Someone who hears "no", yet does it anyway.

Gregory Bentley and Leyton Hardwick are two such people, whose curiosity and drive to do something different led to the newly designed Fanta bottle.

First appearing on shelves in 1940s, Fanta is The Coca-Cola Company’s biggest brand after Coke. Like any great product, Fanta has evolved over the years, with a few bottle re-designs under its belt. But until now, the bottles have always had one thing in common – they’ve been symmetrical.

“The process of designing a bottle like this is very, very restrictive. We have multi-million-pound bottling production lines to think about. You’re working within a pre-agreed tube shape – if you pull capacity from one point, you need to add it in to another. You can’t take it out, without adding it in elsewhere,” says Bentley, packaging innovator at Coca-Cola Great Britain. “And of course, with a carbonated drink, the bottle has to be symmetrical, or it’ll bend.”

There is more pressure in a carbonated beverage bottle than a car tire. As soon as there is a deformation, or a difference in strength of the PET plastic, sections become weak and they can pop out or deform.

The new spiral Fanta bottle isn’t symmetrical at all. Inspired by the twisting of an orange to release the juice and flavor, it has a series of "ribs’, with a torsion in the bottom half.

The concept of incorporating the "twist" or "squeeze" came about in the very first kick-off session hosted by design agency Drink Works.

“How people interact with a product is where we start a project,” says Hardwick, creative director, Drink Works, “We got young people in a room, gave them fruit, carving kits, plasticine, play-do, pens, paper, told them to just play – make a mess! Observing people do what comes naturally when they’re thinking of a drink and oranges like this was incredibly insightful.”

This new design process began in 2012. Some markets had found that the previous Fanta "splash" bottle had become something of a category standard and that Fanta no longer stood out. The twisted design was an early frontrunner, but it completely contradicted the brief – to be in any way practical, it had to be symmetrical. Bentley and Hardwick say they went through hundreds of iterations, making foam models, developing structural drawings and hollow models.

“The reality from the start, was that we all knew which one we wanted. We all had the same favorite. The problem was, there were just so many layers of people who said it couldn’t work,” admits Bentley.

A pivotal moment came in 2013.

Despite producing thousands of images for consumer testing, with artwork for small and large bottles in different countries, in eye-tracking trials (where consumers are monitored for where they look first) the new 2D design wasn’t sufficiently attractive. People looked to the current design shape first.

“It wasn’t enough" Bently said. "The results were inconclusive. We’d spent years challenging everything and just like that, the project was dead. I was gutted.”

Gregory Bentley
Gregory Bentley with the Fanta spiral bottle at the Coca-Cola Design Archives

But, like all great dramas that come back from a cliff hanger, this story does, of course, continue. By chance in 2015, an Italian colleague of Bentley’s, Marco Beggiora, was looking for a new bottle design, and the market was willing to do a small-scale, isolated market test. Within eight months, the spiral design was resurrected and on the filling line in Sicily. During a sales volume comparison, the new bottle excelled. Consumers loved it.

Since that very first pilot program, the design continued to progress, both from a brand marketing perspective, led by Delia Maloney, and from a packaging point-of-view, with expert Roger Moore working closely with local teams and bottlers to review the technicalities. The new bottle also has an updated label which has been moved further up towards the neck of the bottle, taking it someway to align with Coke and Sprite. It has the added advantage of no longer being placed where shelves, or stacking units end up covering it.

Today, the bottle is sold in Italy, Poland, Malta, Serbia, Finland and Romania, with plans to expand production globally in the coming months. The new bottles have been on shelves in Great Britain since April.

The‘spiral bottle now sits in Coca-Cola design archives, alongside the handful of designs which have gone before it. Each is different, having pushed the boundaries of design in their own way. However, only this one has the accolade of being truly unique in the world of PET carbonated packaging designs. That’s what happens when you bend the rules. And the bottle.

Read more about Fanta’s new look.