Pepsi Made With Real Sugar is the drink of summer, perfect—from the looks of their TV ads, anyway—for pool parties, river rafting, and other outdoor activities for the young and fit. The product, which is the centerpiece of a summer marketing blitz, ditches high fructose corn syrup for real sugar, but nutritionist experts say it isn’t really any healthier.
“It really doesn’t matter. Sugar is just sugar,” said Lisa Sasson, a faculty member at New York University’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health “It’s broken down and it’s the same in our body.”
Dr. David Katz, founder of the Yale Prevention Research Center and editor of the journal Childhood Obesity, adds that replacing corn syrup with sugar would not yield any public health benefit.
Of course, Pepsi hasn’t explicitly said that real sugar makes the product healthier. Its advertisements focus on summer fun and a hearkening back to the soda’s origins, and a Pepsi spokesperson told TIME that the offering is designed to meet a consumer demand for a soda with real sugar.
“I can easily imagine people thinking that cane sugar is less processed than corn syrup and is some ways more natural and healthier for you,” said John T. Gourville, a professor at Harvard Business School, who studies marketing and consumer behavior. “It’s an attempt to expand a product category that is struggling to build sales.”
Indeed, carbonated beverage sales, especially in the diet market, have been on the decline in recent years. This summer isn’t the first time Pepsi has used real sugar. It began selling the product for a limited time as Pepsi Throwback in 2009. The company launched the Throwback as a permanent fixture in 2011 and added Pepsi Made With Real Sugar last month. The cola in both real sugar products are the same, but the cans are different.
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