I’m sure that many of you got to sample the limited edition Pepsi Throwback. I certainly did and I must say that I thought it tasted much better than regular Pepsi (though I wish they offered a caffeine free variety). If you didn’t know what sets the beverage apart from the normal variety, what makes the drink special, it is the sweetener. While Throwback uses natural sugar (from cane, beet or both), these days most non-diet carbonated soft drinks (whether regionally called colas, pop, Coke, or something else) contain high fructose corn syrup.
But…this isn’t a food review blog? What does this Pepsi product have to do with politics? Representative Ron Paul has the answer. In his bestselling work, The Revolution: A Manifesto, he discusses this topic. The reason for the switch is one of cost. It is cheaper for soft drink manufactures to use the corn syrup. But wait, you say…in other countries they use sugar, why would it be more expensive in the U.S.A.? The answer is subsidies and quotas. Not only does the federal government subsidize corn growers, as Ron Paul tells us, “The United States government limits the amount of sugar that can be imported from around the world. These quotas make sugar more expensive for all Americans, since they now have fewer choices as a result of diminished competition. The quota also put at a competitive disadvantage all those businesses that use sugar to produce their own products. That’s one reason that American colas use corn syrup instead of sugar: American sugar, thanks to the quotas, is simply too expensive.” (p. 72). Paul goes on to agree with my assessment of sugar versus high fructose corn syrup writing, “And it’s also a reason that colas in other countries taste so much better.” (p. 72)
Although I’ve read that given the popularity of Pepsi Throwback, it will be returning to the market later this year, it will only be for a brief time. So if you haven’t tried this sugar sweetened drink, you will have another chance. Unfortunately, government interference with the free market will likely make sugar drinks too expensive to be sustainable in the long run, despite the superior taste. After all, with corn farmers receiving additional income from our tax dollars, and the price of sugar kept artificially high, without substantially higher retail prices sugar products like Pepsi Throwback will be nothing more than a memory of days past. I say that it’s high time to let the unfettered market decide, not the powerful corn and sugar lobbies. Given a true choice between sugar and corn syrup, I know which one should be thrown back.
P.S. For far more information on this subject, I recommend reading the drink comparison site bevreview.com. They have a very comprehensive article on the subject.