Reporter's Notebook
Umami Burger rolls out 'real sugar' Pepsi sodas

Umami Burger rolls out 'real sugar' Pepsi sodas

Photo: Umami Burger

Good news for the anti-corn-syrup crowd.

Umami Burger said Wednesday it is among the first restaurant chains to roll out new “real sugar” sodas offered by PepsiCo.

The casual-dining burger chain's menu includes Pepsi-Cola Made With Real Sugar, of course, as well as Mountain Dew Made With Real Sugar, and Sierra Mist Made With Real Sugar.

Lisa Jennings

The sodas are served in 10- or 12-ounce glass bottles and will be served at the Los Angeles-based chain’s 24 locations, including the new restaurant scheduled to open in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood on March 12. The company plans to open two to four new Umami Burger units this year.

The Williamsburg location will also serve a new craft beverage by PepsiCo called Caleb’s Kola, which is described as using a blend of sustainable Fair Trade Certified cane sugar, kola nut extract from Africa, a special blend of spices from around the world and a hint of citrus.

Paul Clayton, Umami Burger’s CEO, said the real-sugar sodas pair well with the casual-dining chain’s innovative lineup of burgers -- especially the Throwback Burger, which is like a fast-food burger but made with Umami’s signature house-made ingredients and not soggy from being wrapped in paper or squished into a Styrofoam clamshell.

Consumers today want menu offerings that are authentic, hand-crafted and real, said Clayton.

“Our products are made with care and attention to details and we wanted that same approach with our soft drinks,” he said. “People are moving away from corn syrup and looking for more authentic and real products.”

The return to sodas made with sugar – as opposed to high-fructose corn syrup – has been trending for years. Many restaurant chains offer Coca-Cola made with sugar, often called Mexican Coke because the product made there is sweetened with cane sugar. Umami Burger was one of those chains before the company switched to PepsiCo as its soft drink supplier in January.

The sugar versus corn syrup debate continues to rage, but the move is yet another example of a restaurant chain's efforts to respond to consumer demand for cleaner or more natural menu offerings.

It's difficult to make a better-for-you argument for super sweet sodas, especially when they're served with one of Umami Burger's decadent Truffle Burgers with truffled aioli, house truffle cheese and truffle glaze.

Still, as Umami Burger has demonstrated with its house-made condiments and in-house ground beef, consumers say real food tastes better than processed.

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