I’m just catching up to an odd story in The New York Times a few days ago. Food manufacturers are taking high-fructose corn syrup out of their products and replacing it with … sugar. And adding the word “natural” to the food’s label to trumpet the switch.
Pizza Hut has a pie called “The Natural” because its tomato sauce is now made with sugar. Pepsi has Pepsi Natural soda and ConAgra has introduced Healthy Choice All Natural frozen entrees, sweentened with sugar or honey. This is a huge departure from past practices and it makes me wonder if there is a big enough sale advantage to adding the word ‘natural’ to make this cost effective or even more profitable than using HFCorn syrup. Sugar, via sugar cane, is one of the most heavily subsidized crops in the world. You can read more on that in an article by the CATO Institute from June 2007. It is also really important to recognize that the players in this new discovery of the merits of sugar (at least as a sales tool) are the biggest food producers in the world like Kraft, Con Agra, and Pepsi to name a few.
From the time that Europeans arrived in North America in the late 1400s and up until the 1800s, maple sugar was the most sought-after and most common sweetener. The indigenous peoples showed the colonists that the maple trees could provide for sweetness through the process of sugaring, that is boiling down the sap until it concentrated and crystalized into a dark sugar. The importation of the European honey bee and the honey they produced was the other sweetener. Now most maple product is made as syrup and honey production is in danger from colony collapse disorder. The history of sugar production is an eye-opener if you haven’t considered human beings’ collective sweet tooth.
Leonard has been boiling down the results of his maple-tree tappings over the past few days. Look for the big announcement on Upper Meadows Farm’s maple syrup sometime soon.