De Andreis 1915
During a visit near Lake Managua, Nicaragua, in 1909, the journalist Pierre Lardet discovered the recipe for a cocoa-based drink. When he returned to Paris, he started its commercial fabrication and, in 1912, began marketing Banania with the picture of an Antillaise. Her image was replaced in 1915 with the drawing of a widely smiling Senegalese man.
At the outset of World War I, the popularity of the colonial troops at the time led to the replacement of the West Indian by the now more familiar jolly Senegalese infantry man enjoying Banania. Pierre Lardet took it upon himself to distribute the product to the Army, using the line pour nos soldats la nourriture abondante qui se conserve sous le moindre volume possible (“for our soldiers: the abundant food which keeps, using the least possible space”).
The brand’s yellow background underlines the banana ingredient, and the Senagalese infantryman’s red and blue uniform make up the other two main colours. The slogan Y’a bon (“It’s good”) derives from the pidgin French supposedly used by these soldiers (it is, in fact, an invention). Slowly but surely, the slogan and the character became inseparable as the expression was coined: l’ami y’a bon (“the y’a bon buddy”).
The form of the character has since evolved, so that now all that remains is the name. However, the original advertising has become a cultural icon in France. Posters and reproduction tin-plate signs of the pre-war advertising continue to be sold.