There is evidence other, less public, forces may have a greater influence on HFCS use. At USDA ERS, Senior Economist Tom Capehart sees tight corn stocks affecting HFCS.

“Record corn prices and the very tight carryout ratiaons corn use,” he says. “The companies that use HFCS have the option to go back to sugar. The public attacks on HFCS have sort of run their course, and CRA has done a pretty good job of countering them. Price is what will make users switch.”

As for long-term trends, Earley believes U.S. HFCS consumption is stabilizing, a pattern USDA’s 2012 Long-term Projections attributes to a slowdown in the decline in carbonated soft drink consumption.

Looking ahead to 2021, the reportsuggests slow growth in HFCS use – at half the rate of U.S. population growth. That may be limited, however, by consumer dietary concerns or changes in taste and preference. For example, beverages are the single largest market for HFCS, and preferences for them are always changing.

For example, Pepsi recently launched Pepsi NEXT in Australia, using a non-caloric stevia sweetener to reduce sugar content by 30%. Tate & Lyle, a major producer of stevia and HFCS, says its stevia ingredient could cut cola sugar levels in half.