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Pepsi gives toast to its sugar days

In a nod to the early days of cola, Pepsi will release this year some soft drinks using sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.

In select cities, Pepsi is rolling out Pepsi Natural, a premium cola made from natural sugar, caramel, kola nut and apple extract.

Natural will be available in Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Las Vegas and New York.

Pepsi also will release Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback, which will both use sugar and come in retro-look packaging.

The Throwback products will be available across the United States for eight weeks starting April 20.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi both use cane sugar in Latin America. In the United States, they switched to high-fructose corn syrup in the 1980s.

Government regulations in Latin America support the use of sugar while U.S. policy makes corn syrup more affordable here.

Coca-Cola has no plans to release Coke in the United States with sugar, said company spokesman Dan Schafer.

Are there health benefits to this? I will examine that and more...

I first heard about this last month from another dKos blogger that linked me to an article called Coming Soon: Pepsi Throwback, Mountain Dew Throwback

The comment section is full of happy fans delighted at the opportunity to ditch high fructose corn syrup (hfcs) for a cane sweetened refreshment. I'm less thrilled with this news. It may just be a ploy to gain market share by enticing high fructose corn haters, those that desire a natural/organic product, and those who prefer the taste of cane sugar to syrup. Cliff Kuang believes (surprise, surprise) that there is a profit motive at hand.

It's an interesting move. In a former life as a management consultant with beverage-industry clients, I worked on a conundrum that has tortured the industry: Unlike nearly every other class of consumer good, soda has never been able to create a high-margin, premium product. Many marketers still rue the cola wars of the 1980s, which eventually led to diet sodas being priced just like regular sodas, even though the demographics are much richer.

Throwback branding might just work in finally creating that long sought-after premium, for a number of subtle reasons. As Ad Week points out, retro-branding is an easy way to tap sentimental connections—which brands themselves have spent billions of dollars in creating, only to discard them once the new campaign approaches. Moreover, Pepsi, in linking retro with it's "natural" roots, finally has a believable story connecting it with the organics movement at large. And organics of course, are the biggest story in food and beverage of the last twenty years: A so-called organic product can easily sell for twice as much, even though the health benefits and lessened environmental impact are dubious. Very clever.

Now that's good news! We don't always need to create laws and regulations, we can affect business practices through changing consumer tastes. If we can move Coca-Cola towards producing a natural beverage by showing our preference for natural goods. Then that's great. Just like if we could find a way to show there is a market for fair-trade goods. Or union made goods. But, I'm not sure this cane sugar beverage is what we should be demanding. It's interesting he says that soda isn't a high-margin premium product. They have a lousy product and it gets its' margin through government subsidies and tariffs.

Most importantly, this switch does nothing to lower overall sugar intake.
My username on other blogs is CornSyrupAwareness, but more accurately it should be sugar awareness.

I do think HFCS is worse than cane sugar.
For many reasons:
US corn producers pollute our rivers and streams.
They take our subsidies and then spend exorbitant fees to convince us to imbibe their product. (It seemed like 1/3 Super Bowl ads were for soda.)
The rest of the world refuses HFCS.
HFCS crowds out local business. Big food operations use HFCS to increase shelf life in packaged products. This enables them to avoid local  bakers, farmers and processors.

The one topic that is still up for debate is if HFCS is chemically worse than table sugar/cane sugar (sucrose)? I think it is, but it's fair to say this one is still up for discussion. It may be like that for quite sometime because sucrose contains fructose. Thus the science of isolating health differences is problematic.

There's lots of evidence to show HFCS is chemically worse for your body than glucose.

"There has been a remarkable increase in consumption of high-Fructose
corn syrup," Gerald Shulman, of the Yale School of Medicine, said in a journal news release. "Fructose is much more readily metabolized to fat in the liver than glucose is, and, in the process, can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)," which, in turn, leads to hepatic insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes

High-fructose corn syrup -- a mixture of the simple sugars fructose and glucose -- came into use in the 1970s. By 2005, the average American consumed about 60 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup a year.

The facts are in with glucose versus fructose. There's just not enough evidence yet to say if switching from HFCS to cane sugar will provide any health benefits. So, that's why I'm not thrilled about the idea of moving towards cane sugar sodas. It's especially useless without removing the tariffs on cane sugar imports, and the subsidies to corn producers and syrup refiners.

Sodas are a dessert
They need to be consumed in moderation. The AMA suggests 32 grams of added sugar per day (that's about 10 ounces of Coca Cola). That's not a quote you'll get from the corn refiners' association (CRA). They are using the AMA quote that says that

high fructose corn syrup does not appear to contribute more to obesity than other caloric sweeteners

This is that sucrose vs fructose debate, and the CRA is playing the confusion to their full advantage. But they'd never bring up the other quote from the AMA article about Corn Syrup. The one that says the AMA suggests no more than 32 grams of added sugar. 32 Grams of Sugar per day

comes out to just over 25.5 pounds of sugar per year.  This recommendation is over five-and-a-half-times less than the 142 pounds per year that the average American consumes.

Even though the Corn Refiners Association preach moderation in their patronizing commercials, they don't mean it. Moderation would require their business to shrink drastically and I think they really enjoy writing scripts for zany Super Bowl commercials.

I will give credit where it's due and Pepsi did promote one beverage that was more reasonable. The SoBe Lifewater has 24grams of sugar in 20 ounces. The ingredients seem reasonable.

Reducing added sugar in our diets
Check out this website to see fastfood fact tips, and try and estimate how much sugar you consume on a daily basis. Here's the link for snack foods and for sweets and for beverages

Remember this is the real food pyramid.

I don't care what TV says, this isn't healthy..

Crossposted at the La Vida Locavore

Originally posted to CornSyrupAwareness on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 04:50 AM PST.


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