According to a story by the Associated Press, “The Corn Refiners Association wants to use “corn sugar” as an alternative name for the widely used liquid sweetener currently labeled as high fructose corn syrup” and have petitioned for a name change. In the meantime, the FDA has cautioned them to stop using the term prematurely, as they haven’t yet received approval and are already including it on promotional materials such as their web sites.
This reminds me of Aspartame’s re-brand as AminoSweet that I discussed awhile back. It’s not difficult to see why they’d want to change away from the term high fructose corn syrup (HCFS) as more and more people are turning against their product.
A representative for the group says they don’t believe consumers will be misled by the new terminology though, saying, “We do not believe that anyone could be confused or believe that the statements regarding ‘corn sugar’ on the websites refer to anything other than high fructose corn syrup.”
So what exactly would be the purpose for making the change, if not to lose the negative association? If it’s not to re-brand your product as something more appealing to consumers, then why bother?
According to this New York Times piece, it’s because they believe corn syrup is a confusing term and that corn sugar better communicates about the calories and sweetness of the ingredient. They say consumers wrongly believe it has more sugar than what we’d traditionally consider table sugar (the granular white stuff) and are avoiding it for that reason.
It seems they haven’t quite agreed on consistent messaging internally. Corn sugar is either a term that will be seen as equivalent to HCFS in the minds of consumers (doubtful, IMO) or else a term than more accurately describes a form of liquid sugar that is nutritionally similar to table sugar (presumes consumers care about and are making nutritional decisions based sugar type comparison, also doubtful). If they’re going to choose a new label because it brings clarity to consumers, they’re not going to choose one that is seen as equivalent to their current term.
In my head, it’s nothing more than an attempt to re-brand in attempt to slow or stop the declining use of their product as manufacturers switch to more “natural” forms of sugar in response to consumer demand — as seen with the introduction of products like Pepsi Natural and Mountain Dew Throwback. And consumers are likely demanding this not due to research into the nutritional profiles of varying types of sugar, but because the media and others have painted HCFS as a bad guy, accurate or not. Also, because the pursuit towards more natural products is a popular trend.
In fact, scientists are somewhat split over whether HFCS is any more damaging to consumers than other sugars. According to the Mayo Clinic, research studies have yielded mixed results. HFCS is chemically similar to table sugar, but the thought is that your body may react differently since it’s processed. There’s insufficient evidence at this point to say that this is true, but studies continue to look a the potential effects, including potential links to cancer. Where there is no argument is that we should all be consuming less sweetener, no matter what the source.
So what do you think? Does a switch to the name corn sugar provide any nutritional clarity to you as a consumer? Do you shy away from HFCS in particular or is sugar of any kind treated the same?