What is the difference between beet sugar and cane sugar?

May 30 2019

Sugar from beet or cane is used across industries from confectionery and baking to pharmaceuticals, but how different are these plants?

Where is beet sugar and cane sugar grown? ­

Sugar beet is usually grown in temperate climates such as Canada, Europe, China, Russia and in the UK mainly in East Anglia and Lincolnshire. It is a biennial plant which grows underground, and can reach roughly one foot in length, weighing between 0.9kg and 2kg. The sugar content for beet is roughly 18% sucrose which is concentrated in its taproot.

Unlike sugar beet, cane sugar prefers warmer tropical climates with plentiful sunshine and rainfall and is therefore usually grown in areas such as Brazil, India, Cuba, Mauritius and the West Indies. Sugar cane is a tropical grass growing between four to five metres tall with deep roots into the ground. Not only is its size and shape different to beet, but its sucrose content is not stored in the root but in the long stalks, with the sugar then produced by photosynthesis occurring in the cane leaves.

When growing cane sugar, its seeds are too small to be directly planted into the soil, therefore mature harvested stalks are cut into segments called ratoons roughly 50 centimetres long and are placed in furrows and covered in soil. It takes 12 months from this point for the sugar cane to be harvested. The cane will only grow properly above 21°c and in the summer can grow by as much as 1 cm per day. Several harvests can be grown from each cane, before it needs re-planting. Beet seeds, however, are planted deep in the soil and only take around 70 to 90 days until they can be harvested.  While this is considerably shorter than the long gestation period of cane sugar, beet seed can only produce a single crop.

Green = cane; Red = beet

Is the refining process different for cane sugar and beet sugar?

Once harvested both cane sugar and beet sugar need to go through a refining process before they arrive at Ragus Pure Sugars. This is not only to remove the sugar ready for processing but also to remove any impurities. To extract the sucrose, there are some steps that both plants go through, and some steps that are different depending on whether its beet or cane.

To extract the juice both are washed, with sugar beet then being sliced. In contrast, cane is cut and crushed. For both the juice is purified, filtered and then boiled. Once this has happened, it is then spun in a centrifuge (cane having multiple spins due to its dark brown colour) to remove impurities and to separate the sugar crystal from the adhering film of molasses. As mentioned in my previous blog on specialist sugars and their applications, the refining process of sugar can be adjusted in numerous ways to produce different types of sugar crystals.

At Ragus Pure Sugars, ethically sourcing underpins our operations. We use technology to follow our sugar from the mill, or refinery, right through the supply chain to our factory and then into each syrup, crystalline sugar or custom formulation that we produce. We understand that food origin is very important to our customers, therefore this complete audit trail means you can trace our sugar ingredients from field to final formulation.

Do beet sugar and cane sugar differ once processed?

Once sugar beet and cane sugar have been refined and arrive at Ragus Pure Sugars they are both chemically identical despite their origins. Both can be used to produce our range of sugar products, including liquid sugar, golden and invert syrups as well as custom formulations. Equally, beet sugar and cane sugar once manufactured undergo the same rigorous testing to ensure quality and consistency in each batch that leaves our factory.

Despite where they are grown, and the slightly different refining process they go through, both cane and beet sugar are used in our formulations and can be applied to suit our customers varied requirements.

You can learn more about how sugar is processed and refined in the learning zone, or to find your ideal sugar product contact our expert customer services team

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Why is sugar tested during production?

May 23 2019

At Ragus’ Pure Sugars, our rigorous testing processes mean that every product that leaves our factory perfectly meets our customers’ needs.

Why does every batch of Ragus’ Pure Sugar product need to be tested?

In order to maintain a consistent end product, our customers need to know they are getting an identical product every time they place an order. Whether it is an invert sugar for ice cream or a liquid sugar to go into a soft drink, using the exact sugar formulation required is crucial to ensuring an optimum end product. That is why all Ragus Pure Sugars’ products are tested to guarantee consistent colour, flavour, texture softening, binding of component ingredients and stability.

Altering just a single component of a sugar product could have a dramatic effect on the properties of an end product. A different colour shade of a syrup, for example, can change the colour of baked goods, while the percentage of invert sugar to sucrose could modify the sweetness and potentially the flavour. The insights gained from rigorous testing over the years has provided us with a bank of knowledge when advising customers about purchasing a product.

At Ragus Pure Sugars’ state-of-the-art lab our highly specialised team manufacture in a day hundreds of tonnes of crystalline and syrups to slightly different specifications dependant on customer requirements. Only products that fulfil all aspects of our testing criteria are released and verified. All final product samples of a tested batch are kept on site for at least 18 months, so we are always able to carry out further analysis if necessary.

Ragus has a team of sugar consultants working from its lab in the UK. The team provides advice on foodproduction, quality controls and food hygiene to its suppliers. Ragus' close relationship with its suppliers ensures that its customers can be confident that the raw sugar it sources has been grown, harvested, and shipped to its factory to the highest standards of food management.

What tests lead to a consistent sugar product?

Whether it is a repeat order or a brand new custom formulation, every sugar product produced by Ragus Pure Sugars is tested. For example, we check our full and partial invert sugar throughout the inversion process to make sure it is meeting the customer’s specified formula. The tests are carried out at different key stages, allowing us to make alterations as necessary to ensure the product expertly matches the customer’s requirements.

When inverting a sugar, we inspect the pH level, to check the acidity or alkalinity, and adjust it accordingly. We also use polarisation – passing a light through the syrup to determine the product has been inverted correctly and has the right percentages of fructose and glucose. Next, we verify the total amount of sugar to water, checking the level of sucrose by weight in a solution measured in degrees Brix. Lastly, we check the colour of the liquid sugar against a benchmark sample.

By adopting these checks in sugar manufacturing, we have established a 90-year legacy of delivering our customers reliable sugar products to help them produce a highly consistent and repeatable end product on a large scale. Alongside this, the testing we have in place also allow us to quickly and efficiently respond to any changes in the requirements that our customers present to us. All in all, this results in Ragus Pure Sugars’ being backed by expertly tested products that lead to perfection in whatever application they are applied.

What standards are there for sugar?

It is unsurprising that a product as ubiquitous in and essential to the foods and beverages we consume daily as sugar is held to the most strenuous standards. Aside from the UK government setting out in a 2003 piece of legislation strict criteria as to the reserved descriptions for specific sugar products, there are also an abundance of industry-specific accreditations and standards all manufacturers can achieve or adhere to. At Ragus Pure Sugars’, we are proud to have been awarded several of these accreditations.

We hold a global safety and quality certification from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) highlighting that our processes and sugar products meet industry recognised quality standards and are traceable. Alongside this we also have the globally recognised ISO9001 2008 standard which is required for any businesses operating in the wider food and beverage industry.

We use the International Commission for Uniform Methods of Sugar Analysis (ICUMSA)  specifications to measure moisture and colour analysis in all our crystallines and syrups. The ICUMSA is a global body that unites the activities of 20 member states from the National Committees for Sugar Analysis. Its sugar grading colour grading system offers an easy way for producers to categorise sugars in accordance with globally acknowledged guidelines.

For the brewing industry we adhere to the standards set out by the European Brewing Convention (EBC), with this taking the form of a special scale designed to indicate colour in malts and sugar. The scale takes a sample and is placed in a spectrophotometer for colour analysis, the higher the EBC rating the higher percentage of sugar and the darker the malt. As the colour of beer can range from very light to dark brown or black, brewing industries prefer to use the EBC when colour grading their products as it is a much quicker process of colour verification than the ICUMSA method.

To guarantee your end product is always of the highest quality, order a rigorously tested sugar product from Ragus Pure Sugars now via our product finder.

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Granular detail: invert sugar

May 16 2019

This week, we explore everything there is to know about invert sugar. From its usage to storage, this guide will help you with your next sugar product purchase.

What is invert sugar?

The building block of invert sugar is ordinary table sugar, known as sucrose. Sucrose is a disaccharide, meaning it is composed of two different individual sugar molecules joined together, which in this instance are glucose and fructose. In order to produce invert sugar, these bonds must be broken.

Taking the production of Eastick’s golden syrup as an example, we can see how this is achieved:

– Firstly, sucrose is heated with water in inversion pans, resulting in 64% of the total sugar needed for the final product being present and the syrup reaching a pH of between 1 and 1.6

–  Once all the sugar crystals are dissolved and the temperature is over 70 degrees, the sucrose will invert into glucose and fructose

– After the desired ratio of sucrose to fructose is achieved alongside a polarisation of -14, the syrup is neutralised with a natural alkaline agent

– Following this, the syrup is caramalised using heat and time and the remaining 36% of sugar is added

– After this has dissolved, the brix, density of sucrose in a solution, will be a maximum of 83% and the polarisation is +20

– An alkaline powder is then added to bind the non-sugar particles and the syrup is passed through a plate and frame filter press for maximum purity

– Finally, the syrup is stored in maturation tanks before being passed through a final filter and sent to our customers.

Invert sugar, which also has the same sugar structure as honey, gets its name from the polarisation aspect of the above process. When light is shined through sucrose, it is reflected at a specific angle. Repeat the process with invert sugar, and you will find that the light is rotated in the opposite direction, and, is therefore inverted. Due to this, the name Ragus, ‘sugar’ backwards, was chosen.

What products is invert sugar used in?

Invert sugar is used in a diverse range of food and beverages, including ice cream, sorbets, fondants, soft drinks, baked goods and cough syrups. As well as helping develop flavour, invert sugar also serves a functional role in these products. For example, its ability to retain moisture leads to a longer shelf life for baked goods and the way it depresses the freezing point of ice creams and sorbets makes them easier to scoop.

In addition, invert sugar also makes products more resistant to microbial spoilage, further extending their shelf life and keeping them fresher for longer. As it also reduces sugar crystallisation, it can leave products with a smoother, softer texture. For soft drinks, its ability to easily dissolve in cold liquids means it is preferable to sucrose as a sweetener.

At Ragus Pure Sugars, we supply invert sugar for use in the above application in two forms: full invert syrup and partial invert syrup. Full invert syrup is a mixture of 95% invert sugar to 5% sucrose, resulting in a sweetness value that is around 40% greater than sucrose. Partial invert syrup, such as Eastick’s golden syrup, is a combination of 44% sucrose with 56% invert sugar, leaving a sweetness value that is only 20% greater than straight sucrose.

What advice do Ragus Pure Sugars give clients when buying invert sugar?

When approached by a client looking to purchase invert sugars, we make sure to ask three questions. Firstly, what is their potential usage per month; secondly, what pack size do they require, with this usually being a 25kg pail, an intermediate bulk container or a bulk tanker; thirdly, what are the ambient conditions of where the sugar will be stored. Asking these questions is crucial to determining which type of invert would be best suited to the client’s needs.

Full inverts act in the same way as honey, meaning they could potentially begin to crystallise in cold temperatures after just four weeks of storage. Partial inverts, however, are like golden syrup, and could therefore last for years if stored in the correct conditions.

Any invert sugar going into storage, particularly full inverts in bulk tanks, must be stored in a trace heated tank in order to prevent pockets of crystals forming. These crystals can quickly multiply in a matter of months, resulting in solid sugar crystals at the bottom of a storage tank. As a result, it is crucial to establish these exact customer requirements before recommending an invert sugar for their application, particularly given the differences that can occur between access to factory locations, production lines and warehouse storage temperatures.

Do you need invert sugar for your application? Contact Ragus Pure Sugars now to benefit from our near century of expertise and excellence.

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The importance of a customer first approach at Ragus

May 09 2019

Customers are intrinsic to daily operations at Ragus Pure Sugars. Not only do they form one of our 10 pillars of CSR, but they are at the centre of everything we do at Ragus.

Starting the sugar journey at Ragus Pure Sugars

As specialists in sugar manufacturing, we use the expertise gained from our 90-year heritage to ensure that every customers’ requirements are expertly met. From the initial enquiry through to consultations and then our on-time delivery service, we always place the customer at the heart of the buying process. This approach allows us to serve a diverse range of sectors and quickly react to changing needs.

At enquiry stage, our sales team are on hand to help new and existing customers. A small but close team, they are experts in specialist sugars and have the needs of customers at the heart of what they do. Whether it is to understand more about sugar applications, place an order or to discuss how quickly a product can be shipped, they work with you to get what you need, when you need it.

Alongside this, we have multiple channels designed to assist and guide those making their first foray into the world of sugar purchasing. Our learning zone provides a wealth of field to factory information, while the Ragus Pure Sugars blog contains both topical pieces and in-depth discussions of the processes involved in industrial sugar manufacturing. Finally, there is our product finder, the perfect tool for ensuring you find the ideal sugar product for your application.

Working with our customers as a team

At Ragus we serve sectors ranging from confectionary to pharmaceutical, working with clients as a team to ensure they have the correct sugar application for their specific needs. To establish if we have a product that is suitable, or if a customised product is required, our commercial team often hold a consultation meeting with the customer to fully understand exactly what qualities the sugar product will need for that application. For example, if it needs a certain mouthfeel, tasting profile, colour or viscosity.

Once requirements have been established, our lab team work with the customer to produce the correct ratio of sugars to water and PH level. We send across a sample of the formula discussed, and then there can be some back and forth testing to ensure it meets the need of the end product. An example of this in baking could be when our initially created formula has been tested in a biscuit, but the formula needs adapting to adjust texture or colourisation.

Understanding the exact specification or formula for the product and what it needs to achieve is a crucial part of the process. At Ragus Pure Sugars we are dedicated to working with our customers, because we understand how important it is to get the right tasting profile or mouthfeel, as it can fundamentally change their end product. Once we have perfected the formula, we know it is imperative to produce a consistent product every time it leaves our factory.

Ragus is one of the world's leading pure sugar manufacturers. It sources raw sugar from across the world to manufacture sugars, syrups and special formulations from its advanced UK factory. Ragus ships its sugars globally, delivering on-time and in-full to customers across the baking, brewing, confectionary, and pharmaceutical industries

A customer first approach is a core part of our daily operations at Ragus Pure Sugars

Consistent sugar products delivered to meet customer needs

Every sugar that is produced and shipped to our customers is tested to a high standard to ensure it consistently meets the customers’ requirements. The quality checking process for sugar products involves testing every batch that is made at key points throughout the entire production process. An illustration of this is inverted sugars, which are tested multiple times during inversion and then once more after the process has finished.

We check to guarantee the formula is as it should be, through polarisation (passing light through the product) and we also check the colourisation against a sample. Our lab team understand how important it is that our customers receive a consistent and safe product each time it is ordered, so the product is rigorously checked to high standards to ensure quality.

It is an intrinsic part of our culture at Ragus Pure Sugars to deliver exactly what the customer wants. This core message forms a key part of the daily planning meetings between the sales and factory teams. With a customer focus in mind the detailed planning safeguard that we have everything we need to ensure our products are produced and delivered safely, to a high standard and on time to our customers.

Everything we do at Ragus from resources on our website to our dedicated team, is centred around delivering the perfect sugar application for your product. To find the ideal sugar for your product visit our product finder .

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Sugar as a shelf life extender

May 02 2019

There’s more to sugar than taste. Here we discuss how its unique water retention properties mean our food stays fresher for longer.   

Why do we need sugar in our food?

Although its primarily used for flavour and sweetness, sugar’s functional properties mean it is an essential component in modern food production. Sugar is what’s known as a hygroscopic, meaning it binds water molecules very easily. In jams and preserves, this starves harmful bacteria of the water they need to grow, and in cakes and biscuits acts as a humectant, retaining moisture and preventing products from going stale.

What the current global trend for reducing the amount of sugar in foodstuffs fails to recognise is that these properties are unique to sugar and cannot easily be replicated by an alternative. Some manufacturers turn to artificial preservatives to try to replicate the same results. Potentially this is more detrimental to the consumer’s health than a naturally occurring product like sugar.

Producing products that sport a sugar free label pleases consumers and regulatory bodies, however, it oversimplifies the complex role sugar plays as a functional ingredient in food and beverages. Nearly all sugar free products do not retain the same taste, and the processes undertaken to ensure the preservative and humectant qualities are still present can lead to a less healthy product. Let’s now look at how sugar is used as a humectant in the food and beverage industries.

Why is sugar used as a preservative?

Sugar is used as a preservative in foods and beverages because it prevents microbial growth by reducing the water activity in a product, primarily through osmosis, or dehydration. Whether in solid or liquid form, sugar will always try to reach the same level of sugar present in the foodstuff it is in contact with. In order to achieve this, the water cells in the food product are replaced by sugar cells. Deprived of this water, bacteria find it extremely difficult to multiply and then spoil products.

In conjunction with this, sugar also disrupts the enzyme activities of microbes and weakens the molecular structure of their DNA. As a result, their ability to develop and inflict damage is limited, meaning products remain fresher for longer. Due to this, those foods and beverages that possess a high sugar concentration can be stored without refrigeration, conserving energy and negating the need for artificial sugar alternatives.

There are, however, some products, such as concentrated fruit juices, that can be spoiled by certain sugar-loving strands of yeast. These resist many traditional preservation methods and present considerable challenges to the food industry when looking to guarantee the maximum shelf life of products. Despite this, using sugar as a preservative represents an ancient and longstanding method to prevent microbial growth and stop foods spoiling.

 

Sugar is a crucial component to ensuring the foods and drinks we consume daily have the maximum possible shelf life.

How does sugar keep food moist?

Alongside hampering the growth of bacteria, the fact that sugar is a humectant means it is also used to retain moisture in food, such as in low fat baked goods like cakes, biscuits and bread rolls. The presence of sugar as an ingredient ensures water cannot escape quickly, preventing them from going stale and extending their shelf life. Due to their high affinity for water, invert syrups are typically used for this application.

Inverts can also take the place of glycerol as the humectant in cakes. This brings with it several added benefits, including improved colour, sweetness and more developed flavours throughout the baking process. As we have seen previously, replicating these and the above properties with a sugar substitute can prove to be highly challenging and not always possible.

More than taste: the functional role of sugar

Sugar is present in food and drinks for much more than taste and flavour. It plays a vital role in ensuring products remain at their optimum freshness for as long as possible by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria and retaining moisture. This is owing to its unique and powerful humectant qualities.

Such is the nature of the role that sugar plays, removing it entirely or swapping it for an alternative often throws up more issues than it solves. Artificial preservatives are typically chosen to fill the sugar void, which can potentially cause more harm than good. Sugar’s functional role in extending the shelf lives of the food and beverages we consume daily is important and should not be overlooked.

To ensure your products have their maximum shelf life, visit our product finder to find your ideal sugar.

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