Dueling Dishes: Real Sugar Soda vs. HFCS Soda

Categories: Dueling Dishes
Dave Lieberman
As we posted at the end of last year, PepsiCo bottlers are making limited-edition "Throwback" versions of Pepsi and Mountain Dew. These are made the old-fashioned way, with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). While OC is no stranger to sugar soda (a lot, but not all, of the Mexican Coke that comes in glass bottles is made with sugar), this is the first time the American bottlers are returning to sugar sodas.

This week's Dueling Dishes, then, pits the Throwback sodas against their standard HFCS counterparts. We bought a 20 fl. oz. bottle of each kind of Pepsi and each kind of Mountain Dew.


The regular, HFCS Pepsi has a much more pronounced acidic bite and a slightly sour flavor compared to its Throwback cousin. The HFCS version left a slightly dry feeling in the back of the throat, the Throwback didn't. The Throwback is sweeter-tasting and, frankly, more like soda should taste.

Nutritionally, they're very similar; HFCS Pepsi has 12.5 calories and Throwback has 13 calories per fluid ounce (that's a 10-calorie difference in a 20 fl. oz. bottle). Throwback has slightly less sugar (from any source) than HFCS (3.35 g per fluid ounce for Throwback, 3.45 g per fluid ounce for HFCS), but HFCS has lower sodium (3.25 mg per fluid ounce for Throwback, 2.5 mg per fluid ounce for HFCS).

Throwback Pepsi by a long shot. If Pepsi tasted like that all the time perhaps I'd drink Pepsi instead of Coke.

Mountain Dew

Dave Lieberman
The slightly acrid tang of the HFCS version was still quite prevalent, but in the case of Mountain Dew, it was needed; the Throwback version tasted muted, like a not-very-good imitation of San Pellegrino Aranciata. I'm not sure I could drink an entire bottle of Mountain Dew Throwback; it would be too cloyingly sweet.

Nutritionally, the Throwback had fewer calories (14 calories per fluid ounce for Throwback, 14.5 calories per fluid ounce for HFCS), less sugar from any source than HFCS (3.65 g per fluid ounce for Throwback, 3.85 g per fluid ounce for HFCS) and more sodium (5.25 mg per fluid ounce for Throwback, 5 mg per fluid ounce for HFCS).

HFCS Mountain Dew won this round, but it's a hollow victory, since neither was good enough for me to purchase. Neither was worth the calories.

The real result of this Dueling Dishes is that I'm not anxious to drink soda of any kind for a while. If you're intrigued, however, get thee to a 7-Eleven or a Target soon; these sodas are scheduled to disappear from the shelves next week. And to the bottlers and PepsiCo, since we know you're reading this, KEEP MAKING THIS, OKAY? Get rid of the high-fructose crap and go back to ingredients we can buy in the grocery store.

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