Lithuania Has a Secret Weapon for Tourism Success: Cold, Pink Soup

Šaltibarščiai is a source of culinary pride, and now it's fueling the Baltic country's marketing

In Lithuania, Šaltibarščiai is a popular dish—and tourists can even buy pink soup-themed souvenirs. Lithuania Travel

Šaltibarščiai is not a dish you’re likely to see very often outside of Lithuania, and, unless you’re a linguist, you’re not to likely to have much luck pronouncing it either–but the Baltic state is betting on it to help lure in more tourists, even if it does leave them tongue-tied.

Šaltibarščiai (pronounced “shull-tee-barsh-chay”) is a popular and traditional cold soup made with beetroot, which gives it a unique bright pink color.

As part of its latest campaign, Lithuania Travel, the country’s tourism board, has given Vilnius International Airport a bit of a makeover, rolling out a “pink carpet” for people as they arrive – or, more accurately, a bunch of pink circles on the floor leading to one giant image of Šaltibarščiai, which the team hopes will be an Instagram-worthy selfie spot.

Vilnius International Airport has also been transformed with pink soup stickers as part of the campaign.
Lithuania Travel

Lithuania Travel has also created a quirky supporting film, showing a color mixer trying, and failing, to find this season’s iteration of hot pink (favored by millennial decorators everywhere) only to be inspired by his colleague’s lunch of–you guessed it, cold pink soup.

He goes on to develop some other unexpected Lithuania-inspired colors, including Baltic Blue (the color of the ocean), Forest Green, Rye Bread Black and Modernism Gray.

Pink soup, according to Lithuania Travel, is a big business in Lithuania, with pink soup souvenir socks, T-shirts and bathing suits available for sale at tourist gift shops.

The Lithuanian Post Office, the department said, even issued a commemorative stamp and painted one of its large self service terminals with the distinctive pink design.

“This year, we’re taking our gastronomical identity to the next level,” said Indre Trakimaitė-Šeškuvienė, head of marketing at Lithuania Travel.

@saramayspary Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.