From Beets to Brownies—How Sugar Is Made

Sugar is the world’s sweetener. From your tea to your soda and cakes, sugar is one of the most capable foods on the planet. So how exactly is sugar made? The answer lies in a process that involves everything from beets to sugar cane.

From Beets to Brownies—How Sugar Is Made

It All Started 2,000 Years Ago

Sugar was first produced from sugarcane plants in India during the first century CE. The process involved extracting the sugar cane juice from the sugar plant. From there, the production of sugar has undergone four main phases. The second phase involved the invention of sugar cane granules around one thousand years ago. This allowed pure sugar to be transported and stored. The third phase of sugar production involved improvements to the actual production process through the Islamic world during medieval times. Afterward, sugar cane production flourished in the West Indies and the American tropics with the large scale harvest and production of sugar cane. Finally, we have the modern development of high fructose corn syrup which allows sugar to be produced at a lower price.

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Beet Sugar Production in America

Sugar canes did come to America in 1619. However, the colonists could not make them grow. America’s first taste of sugar came from the production of beet sugar in the early 1800s. In fact, there was a “Beet Sugar Society of Philadelphia” established in 1836 by abolitionists who promoted beet sugar as an alternative to slave-produced cane sugar. However, this movement did not last long because of people’s preference for cane sugar.

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Modern Sugar Production

Today, millions of pounds of sugar are manufactured thanks to the widespread use of steam pressure vessels and steam boilers. This allows sugar to remain inexpensive and allows for production around the world. Sugar is sold by the pound at grocery stores as well as included in many different types of foods from ketchup to cake.

How We Enjoy Sugar Today

Today sugar is the most widely available sweetener on the planet. People use sugar in their coffee as well as in their desserts. Because of sugar’s low cost, it is easy for manufacturers to put sugar in many low-cost foods.

Sugar is currently produced in every part of the planet mainly from sugar cane. Using modern steam boilers, sugar can be granulated or liquefied for use in all types of food. After thousands of years, sugar continues to sweeten people’s day.