March 22, 2011

Soda's 'natural' sugar marketing gimmick falls flat

There is no nutritional difference between corn sugar (high fructose corn syrup, HFCS) and cane or beet sugar – a sugar is a sugar, after all. They contain pretty much the same amounts of fructose and glucose – and even the number of calories are the same.

Yet some companies fall prey to the marketing gimmick by making the switch, claiming cane or beet (table) sugar is "natural" while implying that corn sugar is not. (FDA begs to differ...all are natural, but certainly sugar doesn't just pop out of the ground, does it? Really?)

Sierra Mist and PepsiCo fell for the marketing gimmick and made the switch last year – a move that, on its own, is fine. After all, who cares which sweetener a soft drink company uses? Especially one that's dead last in the lemon-lime category. (Sprite is the leader with about 5 percent of all soda sales, 7UP has 2.5 percent of the market and Sierra Mist, which claims to be the "soda nature would drink," is a distant third with less than 1 percent of the market. Apparently nature isn't holding up its end of the bargain.)

The problem is what Sierra Mist did next: It attempted to boost sales by spending big bucks re-branding the lemon-lime soda as all natural – implying that others sweetened with corn sugar were fake. The result? Sales dropped 11 percent last year, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal (citing Beverage Digest).

The WSJ article said Sierra Mist has started going directly after Coca-Cola Co.'s Sprite this month, drumming up the old "natural" and "fake" lines. While it may get a temporary sales boost from lots of high dollar ads, apparently nature (and soda drinkers) won't fall for the "natural" gimmick.

Sugar is indeed sugar.

No comments:

Post a Comment