Kicking Corn Syrup to the Curb

Kicking Corn Syrup to the Curb

Food & Drink

Kicking Corn Syrup to the Curb


By Cari Martens

Reacting to increasing consumer demand, food and beverage makers in the U.S. are making the transition from high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to cane sugar in many of their products.

But most major brands are quietly making the shift, fearing it could undermine products in their portfolio still made using HFCS.

As reported by Natalie Zmuda and Emily Bryson York, writing for trade magazine Advertising Age, such brands as Hunt’s ketchup, Gatorade and Wheat Thins are all making a permanent switch from HFCS to sugar, while Pepsi and Mountain Dew have launched limited-time-only sugar-sweetened versions dubbed ‘throwback’ products.

Ketchup king Heinz is introducing ‘Simply Heinz’ ketchup this month, which is made with sugar. But the rest of its ketchups will continue to use HFCS for now. Heinz is not planning a marketing campaign for its new line of ‘lifestyle’ products, which includes Simply Heinz.

A spokeswoman for Gatorade told Ad Age that targeted communication plans are in the works to address the reformulation of its Gatorade and G2 beverages. ‘Removing HFCS is part of our long-term strategy to reinforce the functional benefits and quality of Gatorade and G2,” she said. “Through our research and understanding of athletes, we have learned many have a negative perception of HFCS.”

Most manufacturers began using HFCS in the 1970s and 1980s, when corn subsidies made the sweetener significantly cheaper than sugar. But increased ethanol production in recent years has driven up the price of corn and HFCS. This year, the price of sugar has jumped, going from 36 cents a pound last year to 53 cents per pound in 2010.

Meanwhile, the Corn Refiners Association has launched a counter offensive, with big spends in advertising and PR attempting to debunk the myth that corn syrups are less healthy than sugar.

Still, the consumer has spoken, and we expect to see more defections from HFCS in this year and beyond.

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