In breaking news this week, the legal battle between the sugar and corn syrup industries escalated when emails discovered in more than 500K pages of subpoenaed documents revealed misgivings among the top corn syrup executives about their Sweet Surprise ad campaign.
The emails show that some top level executives were wary about calling corn syrup “natural.”
In a 2010 email, Archer Daniels-Midland spokesperson David Weintraub wrote:
I think we’re unnecessarily asking for trouble by using the ‘natural’ language…. I don’t think we really gain much in the mind of the audience or customers and I think it provides a point to ridicule the ads and the industry comes off as being disingenuous.”
The ads, you’ll recall, were ridiculously folksy:
Of course, Weintraub’s fears were not misplaced. Many of us did, in fact, ridicule the Sweet Surprise campaign.
Further emails from Corn Refiner’s Association president Audrae Erickson (from April 2009) boldly claim that the Corn Refiner’s Association should not be publicly associated with the ad campaign, saying “Our sponsorship of this campaign (should) remain confidential.” (source)
Shortly after the campaign began airing, the Corn Refiner’s Association petitioned the FDA to legally change the name of High Fructose Corn Syrup to the more natural-sounding “corn sugar.”
At the time, Weintraub’s emails revealed that he felt the name change would be “dishonest and sneaky.” (source)
(And, for what it’s worth, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen that the sugar industry is lying to us.)
Thankfully in 2012, the FDA officially denied this request.
Nevertheless the emails reveal that not everyone in the corn syrup manufacturing industry was on board with the Sweet Surprise campaign and the following FDA petition.
“How can something that comes from a big chemical factory really be natural?”
Good question! One that these emails reveal corn syrup executives were asking among themselves. (source)
So that leads to my next question.
Did they honestly think we’d be duped?
They had reservations. They knew the word “natural” would be disingenuous. They knew the “corn sugar” appellation was “dishonest and sneaky.”
Yet they spent millions of dollars on this campaign anyway, and have since been spending thousands of dollars in lawsuits with the sugar industry over their choices.
What did they hope to gain?
Were they successful?
I’d appreciate your thoughts!
(photo by dinner series)