Consumers Affect Radical Change: HFCS

December 13, 2011

Consumers' opinions hold a lot of weight in the food industry. Whether based on sound science or hearsay, consumer pressure can surely affect radical change in the industry.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), the ubiquitous sweetener in processed foods and beverages, including crackers, salad dressing, soft drinks, juices, barbeque sauces, yogurt, bread, cookies, frozen entrees, canned soup etc., is being attacked from all angles. Whether it’s consumer pressure to remove it from products, or sugar cane and beet farmers who feel the name change to “corn sugar” deliberately deceives the public, HFCS just doesn’t get a break.
The Lempert Report sees the trajectory of HFCS to follow a similar fate as growth hormones in dairy - it’s not entirely about science, but the public’s perception and ultimately consumer pressure affects change.
HFCS is made up of corn syrup that has undergone processing to change the glucose molecules into fructose - both of which are simple sugars. Rructose is more than twice as sweet as glucose, and then is mixed with pure corn syrup (100 percent glucose) to produce the desired sweetness. HFCS increases shelf life of processed foods, is less expensive at about half the price of cane sugar, and is easy to incorporate in food manufacturing. 
Consumers aren’t buying into its benefits any longer, and life is not so sweet for HFCS as the ‘dangers’ and controversy associated with consumption have been headlined for months. HFCS has its critics and its supporters. Some critics say it is a toxic chemical that contributes to weight gain by tricking satiety mechanisms in the brain and thus affecting appetite. Supporters dispute these claims and say HFCS is comparable to table sugar. 
Regardless, consumers want it out of their food and a handful of food companies are responding to the pressure. Companies such as Kraft Foods, ConAgra Foods, and PepsiCo have replaced HFCS with cane sugar in a variety of their products.