Where does it come from?
The table sugar that we all know and use on a daily basis comes from sugarcane and sugar beet. These two crop types produce exactly the same tasting and nutritionally balanced end-product, regardless of whether it has been grown organically, conventionally or using biotech methods.
Both plants contain large quantities of sucrose (the actual ingredient we’re all after), which make them ideal for commercially producing sugar. The stalk of a cane plant contains approximately 14% sugar, whereas sugar beet contains 16%. By the time you add sugar to your coffee, cereal or baking, it contains 99.9+% sucrose.
Sugarcane and sugar beet
Sugarcane is in fact a giant ‘grass’ that grows best in warm, moist, tropical climates and stores its actual sugar content in its stalk. In stark contrast its relative, sugar beet, likes a much colder climate and stores sugar in its white root.
Although these two crops act and look very different, they basically produce exactly the same thing. From both crops it’s possible to process eight main products and up to 150 by/co-products.
It doesn’t just sweeten things
The agro-food industry is vital in the creation of incomes and work opportunities in developing countries. The ‘agro-processing’ sector is by far the most significant chunk in the industry’s pie.
It covers a broad range of postharvest activities including: packaged agricultural raw materials, industrial and technology intensive processing of intermediate goods and, lastly, the fabrication of final products derived from agriculture.
A myth about sugar rotting your teeth
We’re told throughout our entire lives that sugar rots your teeth if you eat too much, but that isn’t strictly true. It’s simply the lack of good dental hygiene that causes the problem, as sugar doesn’t actually contain anything more damaging to your teeth than any other kind of natural food product.
There are no natural alternatives to sugar produced from cane and beet and because it’s virtually 100% sucrose, it’s often considered the supplier of ‘empty calories’.
Fuel for the future
Sugar will undoubtedly have a very important role in the future.
Apart from its traditional role as a food sweetener, biofuel production is starting to show significant promise for the future of the industry.
Sugar demand is growing exponentially, driven by both human sugar demand and biofuels. This outpacing of demand has pushed prices up almost 250 % over the last 20 years.
Sugar is one of the most valuable globally traded agricultural commodities and the world sugar industry seems to be highly correlated to prices of oil and corn.