Do Americans feel strongly enough about high fructose corn syrup to seek out food without it? Will anyone go out of their way and pay extra to find soda or ketchup without the controversial corn-based sweetener? AdAge reports that some companies are removing it from their products, but have discovered that marketing the change without alienating consumers who weren’t aware of or simply don’t care about the presence of HFCS poses unique problems.
Big-name brands such as Wheat Thins, Gatorade, and Pepsi are experimenting with corn-free products.
“We know HFCS was of interest to some of our consumers, but not all,” a Wheat Thins spokesman said. The brand chose not to broadcast its shift to sugar, though it did market the broader product overhaul, focusing on the benefits of whole grains. New packaging references the lack of HFCS in the product, but it’s “not a core message in our marketing,” the spokesman said.
Gatorade declined to share specifics of its marketing plans around the reformulation of Gatorade and G2. But a spokeswoman said that targeted communications are planned to address audiences who have expressed concerns about HFCS, namely moms and health professionals. “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.”
Of course, the article also notes that companies aren’t switching away from high fructose corn syrup solely out of concern for their customers’ health and general consumer demand. Greater production of ethanol for fuel has raised corn prices, making HFCS less obscenely cheap than it has been in past decades.