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What's in a name: Corn sugar vs. corn syrup

A farmer processes corn cobs.

Steve Chiotakis: A district judge in California is going to hear arguments today in a case over the rebranding of "corn syrup," now called "corn sugar."

Marketplace's David Gura reports.


David Gura: A few years ago, corn refiners -- the companies that turn corn into corn syrup -- had a problem.

Harry Balzer: Over 50 percent of Americans were expressing concern about high fructose corn syrup.

That's Harry Balzer, an analyst with The NPD Group, a marketing research firm. Balzer told me many Americans started to worry about the healthiness of corn syrup, an ingredient that's used in lots of processed foods. So, corn syrup got a makeover in an attempt to win back old buyers -- it became "corn sugar."

Balzer: It seems to me Americans become more concerned about issues because they're told to be concerned about these issues, not because they know about them.

Corn syrup -- excuse me, corn sugar -- manufacturers spent millions on ads, and plain old sugar producers decided to sue. They say the new name is misleading, arguing corn sugar isn't a real sugar. Today, a judge will decide if their case has legs.

Harry Balzer says eating habits have changed. Americans are worried about the relationship between sweeteners and obesity, and that'll be a big obstacle to overcome, whether you work with sugarcane or corn.

I'm David Gura, for Marketplace.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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