Long used as a cheap mainstay for processed foods on supermarket shelves, food manufacturers have gone back to using sugar. Or honey. Anything but high-fructose corn syrup. Due to increasing concerns and bad press about high fructose corn syrup, many manufacturers have stopped using it. Losing serious credibility and sales, the Corn Refiners Association are fighting back.

The group launched a bunch of ad spots declaring HFCS isn’t any more harmful than sugar. Of course, any sweetener consumed in excess isn’t good. But evidence is mounting that some of our weight gains in recent decades may be partly due to the increased used of HFCS. In fact, over the past 40 years, HFCS has been used in food and beverage products, Americans’ weight has gone up.

It’s simplistic to say this is the main culprit, when there so many, of course. But many nutritionists are concerned about HFCS and consumers along with them.

Results from the ad campaign have not turned perception around. HFCS continues to lose favor. So a second tactic has been unveiled. The Corn Refiners Association has applied to the FDA this month for permission to retag high fructose corn syrup as “corn sugar.”

According to the press, the CRA is seeking the name change to help “customer confusion” about their product. They’re basically saying, sugar is sugar, right? The association has stated HFCS and sugar both contain roughly the same amount of fructose, but do consumers buy that? The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a recent 11% drop in consumer demand for HFCS.

This grassroots swell in negative opinion has no doubt prompted manufacturers to switch to other sweeteners. So will rebranding help or hurt?

Here are my questions:
• The idea of changing the name seems a bit disingenuous to me. Will this be perceived as trickery? If so, will the rebrand do more harm than good?
• Will some consumers be fooled into purchasing products made with corn sugar, thinking it a healthier alternative than the old HFCS?
• Will FDA go along with this name change, and if so, what are the ramifications of this action? Will other manufacturers be encouraged to cloak the names of some of their ingredients that seem less desirable to consumers, as well?

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you.

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Ted Mininni is president and creative director of Design Force, a leading brand-design consultancy.

LinkedIn: Ted Mininni