Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Disparagement of High Fructose Corn Syrup

A recent article by David Mercer, Corn syrup producers deal with sour US sales, summarizes the basic HFCS situation in the U.S.  If you follow such news stories, there's not really a lot of new information in the article.  Overall use of HFCS by U.S. companies has declined due to popular demand, linked at least in part to widespread publicity concerning the connection between HFCS consumption and national obesity trends (as well as a host of other health concerns.)  The author of the article cites views from all sides, but points out that as long as Coke and Pepsi don't shift away from HFCS, the corn refiners of the world will still have a pretty solid market share. 
Producers don’t welcome the trend away from corn syrup, but seem positioned to handle it. Companies such as Archer Daniels Midland Co., Cargill Inc. and Corn Products International sell dozens of corn- and grain-derived products, and although U.S. sales are dropping, they’re selling more in some other countries, especially Mexico.

Food industry observers also note the sweetener’s biggest buyers — like Coke and Pepsi — remain huge customers. That’s not likely to change unless sugar prices drop so low they can’t resist.

“As long as they don’t switch, there’ll be a huge market for it,” said Ron Sterk, associate editor of the trade publications Milling & Baking News and Food Business News.

Of course I can't claim to understand all the specifics behind the HFCS dumping the U.S. has engaged in with Mexico (there seems to be an interest in Mexico to use their own sugar rather than the super  cheap U.S. HFCS made available to Mexican-based manufacturers at insanely low prices--some say in an attempt to squeeze out the sugar competitor. But Mexican attempts to tax products containing HFCS resulted in legal action as the U.S. brought the WTO in to "mediate."  I guess this is--from the Mexican perspective--the down side to NAFTA?)  It kind of reminds me of the cigarette companies and how their U.S. sales dipped but they just exported more and more and kept making profits...

Anyway, the article does suggest that the HFCS lobby sees a more insidious side to the shift in the public opinion against HFCS.  Why, when HFCS sales go down, sugar sales go up, so it must be....

“Who benefits from the disparagement of high fructose corn syrup?” asked Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association.

A spokeswoman for the sugar industry trade group, the Sugar Association, declined comment.
Why did the spokeswoman decline comment to this rhetorical question posed by Ms Erickson?  Because it's just so freakin' silly!  That's why!  

See King Corn takes on Big Sugar for more information.

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