Pepsico announced recently that it was making the Throwback versions of its Pepsi and Mountain Dew products, made with real sugar, permanent fixtures after test runs.
Throwback drinks earned the nation's No. 2 soft-drink seller $220 million in additional revenue. The brand's Facebook page has more than 143,000 "likes." The page now proudly proclaims the product is "back for good!"
Several food companies have reformulated their products to rid them of artificial sweeteners and reintroduce real sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beets. In addition to Pepsi's Throwback products, Sierra Mist touts its Natural brand made with sugar. Dr Pepper made in Dublin, Texas, and Coke made in Mexico have cult followings for using the products' original real-sugar formulas and are becoming available in more markets.
Is sugar any better for you than high-fructose corn syrup? Some experts say they're practically the same. But many food advocates are pushing for real sugar because at least it's a natural ingredient, as opposed to the corn syrup, which came into wide use in the early 1980s because of its cost-effectiveness in soda alchemy, not because of taste.
The real reason behind the movement might be that Gen-Xers have grown nostalgic for anything and everything associated with their fleeting youth, even product packaging. Pepsi Throwback comes with the classic red-white-and-blue "meatball" design, as BevNet described it. Mountain Dew Throwback has the groovy font and cartoon miner left over from its 1960s inception. Both come in bottles as well as cans.
How do real-sugar sodas taste? In a newsroom blind test, sugar-based Coke and Dr Pepper generally were preferred over the versions made with high-fructose corn syrup. A downside is that real-sugar sodas are usually costlier than their regular counterparts.
So far, Coca-Cola doesn't appear to have plans to match its rival, probably because it's beating Pepsi without sugar. Diet Coke recently overtook Pepsi as the nation's second-most-slurped soft drink.
If sugar does indeed taste better, Coke won't admit it. The company says its research "shows that there is no perceptible taste difference between the products," according to spokesman Gorki De Los Santos.
"Taste is a complex sense and is affected by many things, including the food you may consume with the product, the size of the glass, and amount of ice in the glass, the temperature of the beverage, etc. Some consumers have told us that they enjoy the sensation of drinking Coca-Cola out of a glass bottle, so perhaps, that is influencing their perception of the taste."