High Fructose Corn Syrup

–Dan Kelly, Attorney

More than a year ago, I blogged about high fructose corn syrup getting a makeover.  The Corn Refiners Association has undertaken a campaign to rename high fructose corn syrup as “corn sugar.”   (See SweetSurprise.com and CornSugar.com to be indoctrinated.)

I recently learned that a number of sugar companies (that’s cane sugar

       

In December, PepsiCo introduced the United States market to a new, special limited time offer. From December 28-February 22, the Pepsi brand would offer Pepsi Throwback. This version of Pepsi contains real sugar, just as Pepsi products did until the early 1980s. This is the second market trial of Pepsi Throwback, as it had originally been on store shelves in the spring of 2009. As we near the end of this limited time offer, I urge Pepsi to make Pepsi Throwback the standard Pepsi product permanently. Offering a cola product with real sugar and 1970s era nostalgia packaging will benefit the brand. It is a healthier product that will foster goodwill in the marketplace, it evokes positive memories and it gives the brand an advantage over Coca-Cola.

The best decision that Pepsi can make from a product standpoint is to remove high fructose corn syrup. Until the last 2-3 decades, the vast majority of colas were sweetened with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. Since high fructose corn syrup was introduced, the nutrition value (or lack thereof) has been intensely debated, particularly in recent years. Many attribute high fructose corn syrup to causing higher rates of obesity. It is not smart strategy to use an ingredient that can be perceived as harmful to health. By removing high fructose corn syrup, Pepsi gains a competitive advantage over chief category rival Coca-Cola, assuming that Coca-Cola doesn’t revert back to sugar as well. Even if Coca-Cola does make the move, Pepsi would retain first mover advantage, and would still be more positively perceived. This move of returning a product to the original formula evokes nostalgia feelings. When a brand can be associated with positive, nostalgic feelings, it is usually a beneficial occurrence.


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In November, I wrote about how Gatorade’s 2009 re-branding as G has been a complete failure. G was an ill-conceived approach to slowing sales in 2007 and 2008. It damaged brand equity, confused consumers and didn’t reverse the trend of falling unit sales.

In the final paragraph of my last blog, I noted that PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi said the company is planning a “massive Gatorade transformation” for 2010. I recommended that Gatorade should follow the model of Coca-Cola when they decided to retire New Coke. By doing this, Coca-Cola admitted their mistake and moved on by hitting the reset button on their brand.

Initial details of PepsiCo’s 2010 “massive Gatorade transformation” have been made publicly known here, here and here. Gatorade’s brand strategy for 2010 seems mediocre. Although they are making some positive changes, other moves indicate that they still don’t understand how to successfully market their brand.


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