Sunday, January 30, 2011

Commercial Success, Part 2

In these modern times, there are many ways to sweeten your drink. There are white packets (sugar), pink packets (saccharin), brown packets (Turbinado sugar, which was first marketed as Sugar in the Raw when it showed up in restaurants in 1972), blue packets (Aspartame, which is marketed as Equal), yellow packets (Sucralose - marketed as Splenda) and even green packets (Stevia root). In the ancient days of 1976, an era of spartan living and limited food choices, you had a choice of two kinds of sweeteners - sugar and saccharin. There had been cyclamates, which found their way into many diet drinks - until they were discovered to cause cancer in laboratory rats who drank Diet Pepsi to excess (and I'd say a fair number of Course 7's did). Saccharin was nice and sweet - too sweet, as it turned out, so it couldn't substitute for sugar in baking recipes. A product called Sugar Twin showed up in 1976 that purported to solve that problem; its sweetness compared to sugar was advertised at 1:1.  It looked like sugar, sprinkled like sugar, measured like sugar...and a comic strip was born.

Some of the denizens of Bexley Hall explained to me later that heroin was also a sugar substitute, though not very effective; to quote the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, it "barely made the coffee sweet". We live in a time of plenty; in the '70s, sugar prices went through the roof, and the Freak Brothers were trying to score sugar from dealers on the street corner. Now, you can ingest all the high fructose corn syrup your body can stand...that is, if they don't convert it all to ethanol. And heroin, like disco, has made an unwelcome comeback.

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