Posted by: Nathan | May 4, 2009

Pepsi Throwback is Better

When I saw the ad campaign for Pepsi Throwback, I was immediately interested in giving it a try (not because of the ads, which are annoying). Pepsi Throwback is the same Pepsi formula except that’s made with natural sugars instead of the high fructose corn syrup to which we’ve grown accustomed. I wondered how and if Pepsi would taste different with regular sugar. Up to this point in my life, I have had no quarrel with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is the latest in a long line of ingredients that health nuts are berating. I don’t know much about it, and I don’t really care. However, the issue has come to my attention recently due to an assignment in an economics class at the college where I work.

pepsi-throwback1Since I work in the writing center, I’ve read somewhere between six and nine papers that discuss why Coca-Cola switched from cane sugar to HFCS. It turns out that in the early 1980s, the price of cane and beet sugar became suddenly more expensive, and Coke stood to lose a lot of money in overhead. Staying with regular sugar would mean a price hike and a downturn in sales, so Coke found an alternative: HFCS. Corn syrup is made right here in the U.S. of A., and it is cheaper. Thus, Coke made the switch (without telling anybody until a couple of years later) and saved a lot of money. To stay competitive, Pepsi and the other major pop makers did the same thing. Therefore, the Pepsi and Coke I grew up tasting has always been with HFCS, and I never knew the difference.

Enter Pepsi Throwback. Pepsi decided to show us all what we’ve been missing by releasing their cola with regular ol’ sugar for a limited time. It tastes significantly better. First of all, it’s much lighter. It doesn’t feel as substantial as regular Pepsi. It’s easier to swallow, if that makes sense. Secondly, there’s no aftertaste. I didn’t even know Pepsi had an aftertaste until I had Throwback. When you drink it, it’s tasty and fizzy, and then it’s gone. It’s great! J tried it too, and also thought it tastes much better than normal Pepsi. She even thought it tastes better than her beloved Coca-Cola, which is saying something.

I can’t decide if producing Pepsi Throwback is brilliant or foolhardy. It’s quite clever of Pepsi to release a soda pop with natural ingredients in the middle of our more health-conscious culture. I suppose there are still plenty of unnatural ingredients in there, such as dyes, etc., but the anti-HFCS folks have no complaint with Throwback. Oh, and it tastes a lot better. On the other hand, Throwback is around for a limited time. That means that in the future, I’ll have to go back to drinking regular, HFCS Pepsi (or not drinking it), and I’ll know the difference. If a large number of people enjoy Pepsi Throwback more than regular Pepsi, the company might be facing a difficult choice: continue making the popular soda with higher overhead, or go back to the less popular formula that’s cheaper.

It will be interesting to see if Throwback sells well. If it does (and I think it will), Pepsi might have a problem on its hands. In any case, it is refreshing (pun intended) to be able to try pop with natural sugar. I hope you try it for yourself, dear reader, even if you’re not a normal Pepsi drinker. It’s worth the cost of one bottle or can just for the experience.

Now if only Pepsi would re-release Crystal Clear Pepsi…


  1. The pop in the Philippines was made with real sugar. It was all so good! I don’t like Mt. Dew but the stuff there was surprisingly delicious. Maybe Pepsi will make that the next throwback.

    • Mountain Dew has a throwback version also, I have never seen it for sale, but I have also never looked for it…..

  2. During passover you can find real sugar Coke mixed in with the HFC stuff if you look for the kosher symbols (

  3. You’re prescient, Jewels! I just had Mt. Dew Throwback today, and it is also better than its HFCS alternative. The aftertaste is barely there and it tastes much lighter. Also, one tastes the lime much better.

  4. I haven’t yet tasted the Pepsi Throwback, but Mt. Dew Throwback is, indeed, superior to the current “regular” Mt. Dew for all the reasons Nathan pointed out. I have high hopes for the Pepsi version.

  5. This throwback is a better product anyway you look at it – the real tastes that it was intended to have! It sad that some bean counters have cut ingrediates on things that generations of people have enjoyed just to turn bigger profits for the companies. I am a Coke drinker however I had to try the Throwback Pepsi and really enjoyed it, found myself buying more Pepsi than my standard Coke. Now that they no longer have the “real” throwback Pepsi now I have returned to Coke again. Sad to see it go!

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