Can Coke and Pepsi Save Us from High Fructose Corn Syrup?
On November 6, 1984, a bomb went off in the food industry that forever changed the course of consumption: Coca Cola and Pepsi announced plans to stop using sugar in soft drinks, replacing it with high-fructose corn syrup. With the drop of two press releases, U.S. sugar consumption decreased by more than 500,000 tons a year driving sugar prices so high that it wrecked the market for sugar and replaced it with a thriving marketplace for high fructose corn syrup.
The industry wide move was made in response to the high price of sugar which had begun its upward projectory shortly after the War of 1812 when the U.S. imposed high tariffs on sugar in order to please sugar plantation owners in the newly acquired Louisiana territory (remember that history class?).
For decades, the government’s tariffs not only propped up the price of sugar but also the value of the plantations on which it was grown and the slaves that worked them. And then further distorting the marketplace for sugar, in 1934, the U.S. government went on to impose sugar import quotas.
So by the time 1984 rolled around, sugar had become an exorbitantly expensive sweetener in the United States and corporations like Coca Cola and PepsiCo were tired of paying the inflated price for this product ingredient.
So in a consolidated effort to manage costs and drive profitability for their shareholders, both corporations announced in November 1984 that they were going to replace high priced sugar with cost-saving high fructose corn syrup in their beverages. It was an unprecedented move that not only rocked the sugar industry, but also dramatically changed the history of food.
Today, over twenty years later, the jury is still out on the impact of this move. While members of the Corn Refiners Association fund ads urging us to believe that high fructose corn syrup is “natural” and presents little to no risk to our health, scientific evidence, unpopular in the corn industry, continues to mount that suggests otherwise.
As a result of this consumer concern, Coca Cola and Pepsi very often don’t use high fructose corn syrup in the products that they manufacture and sell in other countries, as reported in the June 2009 Consumer Reports magazine. They’ve simply taken high fructose corn syrup out of their products in other countries (or in some cases, never used it in the first place).
Now can you imagine if they were to do the same thing here in the United States and removed high fructose corn syrup from their beverages? What if Coca Cola and PepsiCo executed a strategy, much like they did in 1984, only in reverse, in a unified effort to remove high fructose corn syrup from their beverage lines in response to consumer demand?
Can you imagine how that press release might read?
Let’s consider what it might look like, just for a moment…..
A Moment in Time –
New York City, New York and Atlanta, Georgia
In an unprecedented move to restore the integrity of the food supply, Coca Cola and Pepsi Co today announced that they will remove high fructose corn syrup from all of their beverages sold in the United States. The move is a surprising reversal of their 1984 decision in which both companies announced that they would include high fructose corn syrup in their beverages.
In response to consumer demand and in recognition that high fructose corn syrup is often not used in beverages in other developed countries, Coca Cola and Pepsi are removing high fructose corn syrup from their beverage lines in the United States beginning today.
With the move, Coca Cola’s CEO said, “Coca Cola has done a tremendous job of feeding the world as an established leader, creating an enormous opportunity to lead this change and restore the integrity of our food system.”
To launch the initiative, the corporations announced the “Make It Happen” campaign which has quickly caught fire, with both Coca Cola and PepsiCo attracting creative and intellectual talent from around the world as individuals, partners and providers sought to be part of the solution to restore the integrity of the food supply.
As part of the “Make It Happen” campaign and in a wave of collaboration never before seen in the food industry, Coca Cola and PepsiCo launched the “Do One Thing” initiative, recognizing that while no one can do everything, everyone can do one thing. The initiative urges its employees to suggest simple solutions to restoring the integrity of the food supply.
In an enormously well-received move, Coca Cola and PepsiCo have also called upon moms around the country to join them in taking action to restore the integrity of the food supply. Through social media tools that include Facebook chats, Twitter parties and email campaigns, PepsiCo and Coca Cola have invited mothers to join them in encouraging Congress to repeal the sugar quotas put in place in the 1800s and the sugar tariffs put in place in the early 1900s in order to help restore an equilibrium to the price of these sugar in the marketplace, once again making sugar more affordable than high fructose corn syrup for both consumers and corporations alike.
With the launch of the initiative, PepsiCo’s CEO said, “We recognize the role all of us can play in restoring the integrity of the food supply, and we value the power of moms and the important role that they play to help make this happen.”
With skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer and allergies impacting the bottom lines of corporations and consumers, the launch of the “Make It Happen” campaign brings to light the depth of concern that consumers and corporations now share about the American food system and the industry funded science and the price distorting quotas, tariffs and subsidies upon which so much of it is built.
To learn more about the “Make It Happen” campaign, consumers are invited to visit www.makeithappen.com where Coca Cola and PepsiCo have created tools and resources for beverage drinkers to learn more, “Do One Thing”, take “Baby Steps” and also contact members of Congress encouraging them to restore the market price of sugar by removing sugar quotas and tariffs that have been in place since the War of 1812.
Now while this may only be a dream, can you imagine if all of us were to actually do this? If we were to collectively lend our voices to efforts urging Congress to restore the health of our food system? Can you imagine the impact that it might have?
It conjures up the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“The invariable mark of a dream is to see it come true.”