As readers might remember, Miracle Whip made a big deal about switching to sugar but were quiet when the recipe switched back to high-fructose corn syrup. The switch lasted a little more than 2 years before quietly going back to HFCS.
Hunt's waited about 2 years before going back to using high-fructose corn syrup. The company was the first major manufacturer in the United States to switch its primary ketchup to sugar from high-fructose corn syrup.
Of course, Hunt's ketchup contained sugar for countless years until the 1980s, when most food manufacturers switched from sugar to high-fructose corn syrup to save a few pennies.
Hunt's ketchup was created with sugar. So bringing back the original formula shouldn't have been a limited run decision.
"Overall, consumer demand for the HFCS-free ketchup was not as strong as expected, thus prompting the change," a ConAgra spokesman explained.
So this wasn't that the switch to sugar was unpopular, but that the switch to sugar wasn't popular enough for internal expectations.
Miracle Whip didn't go that route, at least not from a spokesperson just after the switch.
"We use high fructose corn syrup because of its stability, consistency and functionality, as well as its cost."
In other words, blah, blah, blah, cheaper.
A company, especially a major company, has to be brave to buck the corporate trend, even if both products returned to their natural roots. Some of that bravery has to be saved for resisting the temptation to go back.
Both Hunt's and Miracle Whip had bells and whistles to announce the switch to sugar and stone silence to switch back. Consumers were likely tricked into buying the product after the switch, ironically increasing sales of the high-fructose corn syrup version until they could figure out why their food tasted differently.
The companies were happy to have the perception of a better product without giving it to the consumers. That isn't very brave.
A warning on the front of the label: "Now contains high-fructose corn syrup" would have been helpful. After all, the companies decided their products were "better" for the bottom line to have high-fructose corn syrup. They just were ashamed to admit that in public.
Making a significant move and announcing it boldly should require time for the public to be aware of the change. Less than 30 months isn't that long, but too long for Hunt's and Miracle Whip. Perhaps their trigger fingers were itchy from the start.
While I am personally a fan of Miracle Whip (in its classic form), I wasn't that much of a Hunt's fan. Heinz from Canada or Simply Heinz or Organic Heinz were better options than regular Hunt's. However, if a restaurant carried Hunt's, I would have grabbed that bottle and used it with glee … until they changed back the formula.
Newer products can sadly get away with using high-fructose corn syrup since consumers had never known a version without the sweetener. Hunt's and Miracle Whip are classic brands with an association of using sugar. They took advantage of that trust in offering a recipe using sugar. They then broke that trust by going back and lying through omission.
We applaud their efforts to get rid of high-fructose corn syrup but we abhor their cowardice in going back on their word. Even if somehow either company goes back to the original formula, read the label every single time. The trust is gone.
photo credit: Hunt's