Friday, April 20, 2007

Jones Soda goes for cane in the can

Soft drinks have been on the receiving end of heavy criticism of late for the use of high-fructose corn syrups.

That type of sweetener, says many good nutrition advocates, is far less healthy than sugar, and may be a major culprit in diabetes, obesity and tooth decay.

The Jones Soda Co., which has made its reputation for goofy flavors such as turkey-and-gravy, fufu berry and blue bubblegum, is taking the criticism seriously and has launched a line of 12-ounce canned sodas sweetened with pure cane sugar, the first nationally distributed brand to do so.

Until the early 1980s, soft drinks were sweetened with sugar in the form of an invert liquid sugar, according to the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida. Then sugar prices went up and soft-drink manufacturers began using high-fructose corn syrup, which had been newly formulated for beverages.

"We have always felt cane sugar is a better sweetener," said Peter van Stolk, chief executive officer and president of the Seattle soda manufacturer. "It has a cleaner taste. Sugar has a nicer mouth feel. It is not thick. ... We have switched everything over. There is nothing we make in Jones Soda that has high-fructose corn syrup except our energy drink, and we're switching that in the third quarter."

The cans will be offered in 12-packs with prices averaging $3.99 to $4.29, about the same prices as four-packs of the bottled versions.

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