Soda Makers Advertise New And Exciting Ingredient: Sugar

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

Late last year, Pepsi prepared to introduce a new beverage, the old-timey and upscale 1893, or as its trademark application called it, “1893 From the Makers of Pepsi-Cola.” It’s just one of many products taking advantage of a strange trend in soft drinks right now: making products with real sugar is a selling point, something that the industry might not have expected just a few years ago.

Wait…isn’t sugar bad for us? Why are health-conscious consumers turning to more calorific beverages? Even the CEO of PepsiCo, Indira Nooyi, seems to find current consumer preferences a little confusing.

“They are willing to go to organic non-GMO products even if it has high salt, high sugar, high fat,” she told investors on a conference call last year. Nooyi would have expected diet soft drink sales to go up as Americans became interested in “clean” eating,” not full-sugar drinks.

The appeal, though, is that sugar is something that we think of as natural, coming from a plant. There’s a reason why drinks labels take the trouble to say they’re made from cane sugar. Corn sugar High-fructose corn syrup originates in a plant, too, but isn’t something that we routinely cook with.

“The number one fixation on food companies’ minds is ‘clean label,'” a food market expert explained to the Wall Street Journal. Companies are trying to make products in factories in massive quantities, but with “natural ingredients and shorter ingredient lists that look like you made it at home.” Do you have a high-fructose corn syrup bowl sitting on your counter next to the coffee machine? Neither does anyone else.

Products that call themselves “natural,” a label that’s meaningless under current regulations, are popular right now, and attempts to market sweeteners like stevia as plant-derived aren’t taking off. As soft drink sales fall, then, companies want to sell us smaller containers of slightly more expensive sugar-water, at a higher profit.

Soft-Drink Makers Have New Secret Ingredient: Sugar! [Wall Street Journal]