Beware the “Throwback”

Not all it's cracked up to be.

Not all it's cracked up to be.

UPDATE: Pepsi re-releases Throwback drinks, with a correct formula this time. See All hail the Throwback.

OK, it’s been quite a while since I posted anything, so to mark my return, I’ve decided to tackle a tough topic, but one I dearly love.

Mountain Dew.

You can see this is going to be a bear.

Growing up near Atlanta, when it comes to soft drinks, I’ve always been a Coca-Cola guy.

Hands down.

Pepsi sucks.

In fact, I once won a bet by proving to a less-soft drink educated fellow than I that I could discern between Coke and Pepsi simply from the smell alone. But that’s for another time …

But for quite some time, if I’m drinking a mass-produced, over-sweetened, caffeine-loaded soft drink that’s not a Coke, odds are highly favorable that it’s Mountain Dew.

In fact, I’m enjoying some as I type this post.

Well, back in March, PepsiCo introduced “Throwback” versions of both Pepsi and Mountain Dew. I’ve no idea what the Pepsi version tastes like and I likely never will. But from the moment I became aware of this new Mountain Dew product, it was only a matter of when, not if, I would partake.

According to PepsiCo’s propaganda, the primary difference between the current version of Mountain Dew and the retro “Throwback,” besides the use of the old logo on the packaging, is the fact that retro version is made with real sugar instead of corn syrup.

Soft drink companies began moving to corn syrup in the 1980s, beginning with Coca-Cola’s marketing-ploy-disguised-as-PR-nightmare move from Coca-Cola to “New Coke” to Coca-Cola Classic, which is what we now know as Coke. For those too young to remember that fiasco, it’s all explained here. But the basic theme is that Coke used the ultimate cola shell game to move from sugar to the much cheaper corn syrup.

Now virtually all soft drinks are made with corn syrup, excluding some smaller independent brands and a few instances of bottling companies with grandfathered bottling agreements with the big companies that allow them to continue making their products with sugar.

If you’ve ever visited a Mast General Store in North Carolina or the Upstate of  South Carolina, you’ll find all of their glass-bottled drinks (excluding Coke) are bottled using real sugar instead of corn syrup.

Some people have speculated that our nation’s shift to corn syrup over sugar over the past 20-plus years is partially responsible for some common health problems (obesity, childhood diabetes, etc.)  I don’t think this has been proven, but it doesn’t sound entirely ridiculous to me.

Sorry, I’ve rambled. The point, besides a little background, is that these drinks like the ones at the Mast stores that are made with sugar DO taste different. Maybe even better. So I wanted to try the Mountain Dew.

So a couple of weeks ago, while on vacation in the mountains of Tennessee, I bought some Mountain Dew Throwback.

What a complete and utter disappointment. The difference between sugar and corn syrup is actually pretty easy to detect. The sugar has a different kind of sweet that’s hard to describe. I believe it’s sweeter. But it was obvious from the start that the Throwback edition of Dew was quite punchless. I noticed it, but thought  maybe it was me.

But eventually, I determined there was a legitimate weakness there, and I began to peruse the ingredients on the side of the can.

A-Ha! It was right there in green and white.

Most people never look at the ingredients on the side of their soft-drink cans. In fact, I usually wish I didn’t know what was in there. But I only had to get down to the third-most plentiful ingredient in the two versions of Mountain Dew to see what the problem was.

Aside from carbonated water and high fructose corn syrup, the next most plentiful ingredient in Mountain Dew is … orange juice. Most people don’t know that. After that is citric acid.

Imagine … a citrus soft drink with real citrus in it. That’s preposterous.

But if you look at the Throwback label, it goes from carbonated water and sugar (instead of corn syrup) straight to the citric acid.

No orange juice.

At all.


A first, I had simply been disappointed that a version of one of my favorite beverages with real sugar instead of corn syrup was so crappy.

But now I wonder if this isn’t the beginning of  a New Coke-like marketing ploy, instead. Maybe Pepsi is trying to play a shell game and eliminate expensive orange juice from Dew’s formula without the average  customer knowing.

So I guess I kinda had two points I wanted to establish …

1. Mountain Dew Throwback sucks. An indisputable fact.

2. When a major American corporation promotes a product that is supposed to give you something that you could only get in years gone by, it’s probably valid to ask what else they’re taking away from you while you aren’t looking.

By the way … Midnight Oil has given way to Joni Mitchell. Both respectable musically, but Joni’s easier on the eyes. But not too much.

16 Responses to “Beware the “Throwback””

  1. Michael Hughes Says:

    I respect your opinion, but have to disagree with your major point. Taste is subjective. It seems to me that the whole point of the “Throwback” line is to authentically replicate the formula from the ’70’s. They did their homework, and I like where they’re going with it. I say this, because the first sip I took almost crippled me with a wave of nostalgia: “this stuff tastes just like how I remember Mountain Dew when I was a little kid!” It really brought back some memories. I’m not saying that the old formula is any better or worse than the modern one; but, that formula did not contain orange juice, so they had to eliminate orange juice in order to duplicate the old soda. Now, don’t get me wrong- I like the modern formula. I think the o.j. was a nice touch. In fact, I wish Sunkist would take the hint. And, sugar? Not the point, I’m afraid… although it should be. Corn juice was a cheap shot, right from the get-go, and you’re hard pressed to find a sugar-based soda in any gas station these days. I get the glass-bottle Cokes from the Mexican store, just because they have sugar. You don’t have that weird, sharp, metallic taste. It’s just more smooth and natural. Like you, I also prefer Coke to Pepsi, but I don’t hate Pepsi as much. I’ve had the Pepsi Throwback, and the difference is alot more subtle than the two Mtn. Dews, but it is definitely better, in the same way that the glass-bottle Cokes are better. Just look for “sucrose” in the ingrediants list. I believe the target audience for the Throwback line is people that grew up before the New-Coke fiasco, and remember the old formulations. They just throw the “sugar” feature out there to hook any health-conscious outliers or other potential bonus consumers outside the demographic who venture down that isle. I digress. They should consolidate: Mountain Dew WITH orange juice and WITH real sugar. Then, they should try the same thing with Sunkist. Might just create the ultimate citric soft drinks.

    • Mountain Dew Throwback from 2010 has O.J. concentrate listed right after sugar, it’s the thrid ingredent on the can. The cans with the Mountain hic on the picture.

      • macmystery Says:

        Thanks. I waited until I’d found some and partaken before responding. I’e added a new post on the “new” Throwback Dew.

        Thanks for reading.

  2. ThrowbackRox Says:

    So I found this post interesting. However, for someone who is actually allergic to corn, yes you heard right, I was beyond excited to have it back. I wanted to buy stock in Pepsi. I’ve had to rely on Jones Soda, which is good, but isn’t quite the same. I won’t begin to talk about taste, how could I? I went years without having a Mountain Dew – painful as that may sound.

    I too am rambling. My main point is that they are not doing a switch on us. In Atlanta, the throwback Mountain Dew has orange juice listed on the ingredients. The label’s a bit different too than what you have listed here in the post.

    Keep an eye out, they’ve now extended it to throwback Dr. Pepper.

    • macmystery Says:

      Hey, thanks for the response.
      For some reason this post has gotten all sorts of attention … several e-mail responses and far and away the most hits of any post I’ve made on this meaningless blog.
      If the Dew has OJ in it now, I’m all about it. The stuff I bought was in Tennessee. I live in Upstate South Carolina, and I haven’t seen the Throwback stuff around here for a while.
      Obviously, the Throwback products are perfect for you with your allergy. The good news is, there are actually a bunch of brand-name sodas out there with sugar instead of corn syrup. I made a post several days after the Throwback post regarding 12-ounce Coke’s in glass bottles that are available at Costco and many convenience stores here in the Carolinas. They are bottled in Mexico and use sugar, not corn syrup. They’re heavenly.
      And as for Dr. Pepper, there’s a bottler in Texas ( that still uses sugar. And the company that bottles RC, Cheerwine, Sun Drop, etc., still produces the sodas on a small scale in glass bottles with sugar instead of corn syrup.
      Anyway, I’m rambling as well. Maybe they’re not pulling a switch on us. No one would be happier to have real Mountain Dew with sugar than me. And I’ll admit, I’m opinionated. I’ll keep an eye out.


  3. I found my first Throwback bottle in a store cooler the other day, and read the ingredient label. The third ingredient was Orange Juice. Maybe they’ve changed it in this second round of throwbacks. Tomorrow at work I’ll try to find another copy and check that I’m remembering correctly.

  4. Countrygirl Says:

    Yep, my latest 12-packs of Throwback all list ingredients as Water, Sugar, Orange Juice Concentrate, Citric acid,…
    This is a god-send for by son’s girlfriend who’s allergic to corn.
    Being a Coke fan myself (Capt Morgan gets lonely without it), we found that Coke made in Mexico is sugar-based as well. Right now we can only find it at Costco and Restaurant Depot, but at least that another non-corn syrup alternative!

  5. To me, high fructose corn syrup tastes just fine. I have no problem with it and still drink the stuff since there is no other option. However, the soda corporations made the switch to HFCS for one reason only…money. They are not concerned with the health concerns of HFCS. The stuff has mercury in it. Need any more reason to object to this stuff? Do some research and find out the reality of this. It also tricks your body into not feeling full, thus making you want to drink more, and more, and more. The stuff sucks, and the fact that people are seeking out soda made with sugar now is proof. It’s the same thing as a few years ago when trans-fats were exposed since every product had partially hydrogenated crap in them. HFCS is next, and Pepsi testing the waters with this product is a step in the right direction.

    “MONDAY, Jan. 26 2009(HealthDay News) — Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies. “

  6. Aside from carbonated water and high fructose corn syrup, the next most plentiful ingredient in Mountain Dew is … orange juice. Most people don’t know that. After that is citric acid.

    Really? Most people don’t know that? And you know that how? Did you conduct a poll?

  7. Back on 6/2/09, I gave up soda cold turkey. Yesterday, I had a big, fat cup of diet coke. I have no idea what was in it, and don’t care. I also drank it from a big styrofoam cup.

    It felt like a throwback!! But, that’s what 8 months of no soda will do for you!

    Mike, add me to your blogroll, dude!!



  8. by the way, i hate throwback jerseys!

  9. callidore Says:

    shopping at mast store, huh? if you graduated from tweetsie university you may not be hip that “throwback” is a stamp that is more acceptable to the rest of the population than “kosher for passover.” muslims, and health conscious folk will drink one but not the other.


    re: Callidore … thanks for reading.

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