Irony in a can of Pepsi

Have you seen the “Pepsi Throwback” commercial?  Pepsi had apparently introduced its “Throwback” drink for a few months last year, and it’s back again now for an 8-week run (starting Dec. 28).  It’s a “throwback” apparently because it’s made with “natural sugar” instead of High Fructose Corn Syrup.

I started wondering who the millions of people were who would buy this product.


If you go to Pepsi’s website listing the ingredients for its products, you’ll find exotic sounding ingredients like Taurin, Tagatose, and Erythorbic acid, as well as others like Tricalcium Phosphate and Sodium Hexametaphosphate which seem to belong more in the chemistry lab than in a beverage.

Picture by JacobMetcalf.

So, are there really people who will happily drink Tricalcium Phosphate and Acesulfame Potassium, but balk at a little High Fructose Corn Syrup?

I can see that some people might prefer the taste of sugar in Throwback. But no one, you’d think, would buy Pepsi Throwback because they actually believe that it is “healthier” because it doesn’t have HFCS?

Sadly, you’d be wrong.


8 thoughts on “Irony in a can of Pepsi

  1. So, are there really people who will happily drink Tricalcium Phosphate and Acesulfame Potassium, but balk at a little High Fructose Corn Syrup?

    funnily enough, i’m off to give a research seminar on exactly this topic tomorrow, and the answer is a pretty resounding yes. check out the ingredient lists on food products* around you — you might be surprised at how much acesulfame potassium and similar-sounding materials we consume every day.

    *Michael Pollan actually calls them “edible food-like substances”. I strongly recommend In Defense of Food to anyone who’s interested in what they eat.

    • I agree. I’ve read both “In Defense of Food” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. Guaranteed to put you off all processed food. It’s amazing how many chemicals even supposedly basic things like bread and cereal contain 😦

  2. Seconding the Michael Pollan recommendation…

    That google query doesn’t surprise me at all. Food products’ marketing has turned so fiendishly clever that I doubt most of us even recognize we are being gamed. (Cereal boxes with the words “Smart Choice” on them?)

  3. Lekhni: On the “lasting forever” thing, the virtue/ vice depends on whether some “treatment/ processing” enables that or if that is possible on its own. If you keep rice in a dry place, then the older the Basmati the better it is considered. Same goes for certain kinds of dryish sweet-sour lemon pickle in the north. And use-by dates in the west notwithstanding, many Indians believe that “gur” and honey never get spoilt.

    The big question worth asking is: why should processed food be cheaper than fresh food?

  4. I’d rather have acesulfame potassium than aspertame in my drink. But it’s really just one substitute for another. I’m reading on my throwback Pepsi: Water, Sugar, Carmel Color, Phosphoric Adid, Caffeine, Natural Flavor.

    Doesn’t look to be anything unnatural in there other than the Phosphoric Acid and of course the caffeine. Phosphoric acid is a thick, clear, liquid used as a cheap seasoning to replace citric acid and has a twangy, sour taste. It can cause a lowering of bone density. However the body needs phosphate for the construction of DNA and some other cells. I’d suggest you can drink it sometimes but keep it down to once a week or something.

    • Well, it might well be that we know more about the harmful effects of Aspartame now than we do about Acesulfame potassium. Who knows what we’ll find in the future – like we did for Bisphenol A ?

      This is from the same Pepsi products facts site on Caramel:
      To produce caramel, sugar, corn syrup, molasses, starch or other carbohydrates are heated under strictly controlled conditions. What’s the probability that this is high fructose corn syrup in a different form? 😛

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