We defied expectations in last week's Pepsi Throwback Challenge. We found the unusual result that our bodies, against our wills, preferred high fructose corn syrup to ordinary sugar. Our comparison of Pepsi[TM] soda products, particularly their corn syrup 'regular formulation' against their all-sugar 'Throwback', defied our expectations.
Our medical driver is that high-fructose corn syrup causes weight gain-- moreso that sugar. There are other health issues with corn syrup. Bad as sugar is, corn syrup is worse. But apparently our taste buds didn't realize it.
We really wanted to prefer the more healthy sugar to the body-corroding corn syrup. Our beliefs, and what we read in the media, made us think this would be the case. It went so far that we misidentified which product was which, because we thought the one we preferred would be the sugar one.
It's crucial to grasp this about taste tests-- you cannot argue with a taste test result by saying it's "wrong" or that "no, product X really is better tasting, despite the result." That's called bias and marketing. A taste test is a completely accurate measure of what substance _initially_ tastes best. It does neglect things like long term taste, stomach aches, how it makes your body feel-- but if you ask people to sample a blind beverage to see what tastes best, the results are accurate.
Even if the results go against what you think you like.
So this week, we created the Dr. Pepper Throwdown. A simple test, which did we prefer: current corn syrup Dr. Pepper formula, or the sugar-only Dr. Pepper 'Throwback' edition? As before, we had 5 cups of unknown soda. We thought it was 2 of each type, with the 5th cup chosen from one of the two randomly.
What we didn't realize was the tester had put in a third choice-- a mix of the corn syrup and sugar editions. So in reality, there were 3 products among the 5 cups: corn syrup Dr. Pepper (1), sugar Dr. Pepper (1), and a 50/50 mix (2). This was neat, because it truly distanced our psychological expectations from biasing the pure tasting results.
Both testers recorded identical preferences. We preferred the two "50/50 mix" cups to the "corn syrup" formulation. Victory for sugar, right? Well, alas, no. We marked one "sugar" as a favorite and the other "sugar" as not as tasty.
So apparently, we kinda like sugar Dr. Pepper more than corn syrup Dr. Pepper, but can't distinguish it well enough to really identify. However, the "50/50 mix" was deemed superior. In the end, pure sugar loses out.
It's enough to make one cry into one's drink.
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Dr. Pepper Throwdown