The company that bottles Pepsi's line of soft drinks in Worland is once again using sugar — from Big Horn Basin sugar beets — in some of its products. That’s a big switch from what’s gone on in the last quarter-century, when the Admiral Beverage Corp. regularly sweetened its Pepsi line with high-fructose corn syrup hauled in on rail tankers from the Midwest, even as the factory sat surrounded by fields of sugar beets.
Both corn and beets have been used to sweeten the billions of soft drinks Americans have consumed for decades. And both crops have shaped and been influenced by the politics, perceptions and changing technologies that have driven the sweetener market for decades. One of the latest such developments has been genetically modified versions of both crops.
The Bighorn Basin, along with other beet-growing counties, such as Goshen, and sheep-raising counties such as Carbon, attracted permanent populations of Hispanics through the 20th century. Hispanics who moved here got a mixed message. The towns valued their labor, but not necessarily their participation as citizens.