‘No-Deal’ Brexit – Should the food and drink industry be stockpiling ingredients?

Nov 15 2018

We are fast approaching the day when the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union and recent surveys conducted by the Food and Drink Federation reveal that more and more food and drink manufacturers who were surveyed are reporting an increase in costs as a result of stockpiling ahead of a possible ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

Currently the UK’s demand for sugar is around 2 million tonnes annually and the World Health Organisation’s statistics reveal that, in the UK, an average adults’ daily sugar consumption sits at 93.2 grams. So, imagine how much sugar would need to be stockpiled to keep Britain’s sweet tooth satisfied? But, what would be the cost of stockpiling and where would the stock be housed? The ultimate question is that if we find ourselves in a ‘no-deal’ Brexit situation who will fit the bill for the tariff increases; the suppliers or the customers?

Pure sugar produced by Ragus. Ragus is one of the world's leading pure sugarmanufacturers. 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 brewing, baking, confectionary, and pharmaceutical industries

 

As it stands the UK food and drink industry does not have the infrastructure to support the amount of stockpiling which could be needed. Yes, we’ve all heard Theresa May saying she’s set out plans to stockpile food in the event of a ‘no-deal’ and that the public should take “reassurance and comfort” from that, but the industry remains unconvinced. Chief Executive of the Food Storage and Distribution Federation, Shane Brennan has said that, “we do not have warehouse capacity (to stockpile), never have, never will. There is no stockpiling scenario, this idea that the government is meeting the industry to discuss a grand plan is not something we or anyone else we deal with is involved in.

At the moment the food and drink industries are a finely-tuned machine. Years have been spent streamlining the industry to improve efficiency and suppliers are already using their limited storage space at full capacity, increasing space would be extremely costly; just finding the additional space would prove difficult.

Recent news has emerged that as a precautionary and protective measure one of the world’s largest snack companies, Mondelēz International Inc, will stockpile key ingredients that are essential in the production of their products, in case the UK finds itself it a ‘no-deal’ Brexit situation.

Confectionery giant Cadbury’s has also been stockpiling large amounts of ingredients, chocolates and biscuits too. Hubert Weber, the European boss of Cadbury’s, has been quoted as saying the UK is “not self-sufficient in terms of food ingredients. Like the whole of the food and drink industry in the UK, we would prefer a good deal that allows the free flow of products, as that would have less of an impact to the UK consumer.”

Pure sugar produced by Ragus. Ragus is one of the world's leading pure sugarmanufacturers. 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 brewing, baking, confectionary, and pharmaceutical industries

 

Back in July, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said that the government is making plans to secure food supply in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, however, he said it was “wrong to describe it as the Government doing the stockpiling”, which means that industries would need to take the lead.

So, yet again, the Government is passing the responsibility onto the food and drink suppliers and manufacturers to sort out the situation. However, there is only so much the industries can do though as Aldi’s Chief Executive Giles Hurley, says, “the storage of additional stock is worth considering (but) based on storage and shelf life that would be very challenging.” Hubert Weber, agrees that even though stockpiling is essential until we know the outcome, “you can only do so much because of the shelf life of products”, and the capacity of the storage units. Also, smaller companies and individual producers may find it hard to stockpile or increase order sizes as they may not have the funds to buy in surplus or to find the space to store stocks; thus, for some companies it does not make economic sense to order more reserves.

A recent report presented to the Scottish Government by the FDF, reveals food and drink companies are extremely ‘nervous’ due to the uncertainty over the outcome of Brexit. Suppliers are running up huge expenses stockpiling food and ingredients in order to minimise disruption as the March deadline fast approaches. This latest research from the Food and Drink Federation has revealed that 38% of food and drink manufacturers are already reporting an increase in costs as a direct result of stockpiling ahead of a possible ‘no-deal’ Brexit. FDF Chief Executive Ian Wright says that ‘these results tell us just how seriously the food and drink industry take a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. It is a grisly prospect to which we edge closer every passing day.”

Ragus has been questioned by our own customers as to whether we will be stockpiling our products and we want to reassure our clients that we do have a certain amount sugar reserves in place, but until politicians thrash out a clear deal we will not know exactly what the outcome is, at the moment the discussions are all speculative, we have to wait for tangible facts before the whole situation can be processed. Gordon Polson, director of the Federation of Bakers has said, “just like everybody else, we are living with uncertainty and lack of clarity and the sooner that we do have some clarity, the better.”

As Ian Wright CBE, FDF Chief Executive says, “the budget announcement from the Chancellor – with measures to support productivity, exports, enterprise and investment – offers some respite for our SME food and drink manufacturers,” but right now we have to wait it out until the Government can bring us more news.

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From Plant to Plate- How Do We Get Our Sugar?

Nov 08 2018

Have you ever wondered where the sugar we use in the UK comes from? In the UK our sugar comes from two source, sugar cane and sugar beet. Two very different looking plants which have to be grown and harvested so that the sugar can be extracted from them. Sugar beet and sugar cane produce and store enough sugar that we can grow them specifically for their sugars.

Sugar cane is a tall tropical grass that reaches a height of 4 to 5 metres. To grow, it requires ample rainfall and abundant sunshine in the summer and mild winters. It’s generally found in countries like Brazil, Cuba, India, Mauritius and the West Indies. The sugar is stored in the stalks of the cane and is produced by the process of photosynthesis.

Beet, on the other hand, grows in temperate climates and is a root crop grown in the ground. Sugar Beet is grown throughout Europe, UK, Canada, Russian and China; in the UK it is grown mainly in Lincolnshire and East Anglia.

In order to get the sugar that we use on a daily basis, both cane and beet are grown, harvested and processed; however, the processes for removing the sugar from each plant is done in different ways.

Ragus gets most of its raw materials from natural sugar cane, thus here are the various techniques and processes used to extract the sugar from sugar cane.

Sugar from Cane

Sugar cane plants grow for 3-4 years, per crop, in plantations in hot tropical climates.

When matured, the cane is harvested, and the leaves are stripped ready to be taken to the processing mills.

Pure sugar produced by Ragus. Ragus is one of the world's leading pure sugarmanufacturers. 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 brewing, baking, confectionary, and pharmaceutical industries
 

The Sugar Mill:

Juice Extraction
At the mill the cane stalks are washed, cut up and shredded, and juice is pressed from them using high pressure rollers. Hot water is added to improve juice extraction; the remaining dry stalks (bagasse) are burnt in the mill’s boilers to produce sustainable electricity.

Pure sugar produced by Ragus. Ragus is one of the world's leading pure sugarmanufacturers. 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 brewing, baking, confectionary, and pharmaceutical industries
 

Juice Purification
The sweet natural juice is heated to 80°C and lime is added to purify and neutralise it. Fine fibre particles form a scum on the juice surface; other mineral matter sticks to the lime and settles as sediment. These solids are filtered from the juice and returned to the cane fields as natural fertiliser.
Pure sugar produced by Ragus. Ragus is one of the world's leading pure sugarmanufacturers. 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 brewing, baking, confectionary, and pharmaceutical industries
 

Evaporation
Evaporators then boil the raw juice in a vacuum, heating it to a temperature of between 70°C and 130°C for up to two hours. This evaporates the natural water, creating a very sweet thick amber juice.

Crystallisation
The amber juice is then seeded with tiny sugar crystals, and again boiled under vacuum, which allows the crystals to grow to create a super-saturated massecuite syrup. During this process the natural raw colour, flavour and aroma of molasses is formed.

Sugar separation
Centrifugal machines spin the massecuite syrup (at 1,050 rpm) for two minutes to separate the crystals from the liquid. The separated syrup still contains a lot of sugar, so it’s spun four times to extract the maximum amount of raw sugar. The first and second spins produce sugar, shipped in bulk for white sugar refining. The third and fourth spins are mixed with a magma of molasses to produce affinated and muscovado sugars, used to produce special sugars.

Pure sugar produced by Ragus. Ragus is one of the world's leading pure sugarmanufacturers. 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 brewing, baking, confectionary, and pharmaceutical industries
 

Drying, Sieving & Bagging
Once the sugar crystals are separated, they enter a drum rotating drier and are cooled. Raw sugar is loaded into lorries for delivery to the port terminal. Special sugars are passed over a vibrating screen and through a rare earth magnet, to remove foreign particles, before being packed into bags and shipped accordingly.

Here at Ragus, our UK sugar manufacturing facility, is one of the world’s most advanced sugar manufacturing sites producing hundreds of tonnes of sugars and syrups each day – from unrefined Demerara sugars, to refiners syrups, molasses and treacles to blends incorporating glucose syrups and many, many more. These include highly specialised custom formulations created by our sugar experts to meet customer demands.

Ragus Fun Fact:
We source our sugars from certified supplier mills and refineries all over the world. The sugar arrives in thousand kilo bags inside metal cargo containers, which are taken directly from the ships to our Berkshire factory. Continue Reading »

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From Field to Fork

Nov 01 2018

Have you ever wondered where the sugar we use in the UK comes from? Currently the UK’s demand for sugar is around 2 million tonnes annually, but recent polls reveal that British shoppers do not know where the sugar in their food, drink and pharmaceutical products actually comes from.

In the UK our sugar comes from two sources, sugar cane and sugar beet. Two very different looking plants which have to be grown and harvested so that the sugar can be extracted from them. Sugar beet and sugar cane produce and store enough sugar that we can grow them specifically for their sugars.

Sugar Beet is grown throughout Europe, UK, Canada, Russian and China; in the UK it is grown mainly in Lincolnshire and East Anglia.

Beet needs to grow in temperate climates and is a root crop grown in the ground. A mature sugar beet grows to about one foot long, weighs between two to five pounds, and contains about 18% sucrose, which is concentrated in its taproot. In order to get the sugar that we use on a daily basis, both cane and beet are grown, harvested and processed; however, the processes for removing the sugar from each plant is done is different ways.

Beet sugar being grown; Ragus supports all its farmers and producers with advice and support on how to optimiseefficiencies, and promote the cause of sustainable sugar production

 

The History of Sugar Beet:
European sugar beet dates back to the 16th century when French soil scientist Olivier de Serres found that some beet substances could be processed to a state that very much resembled sucrose fluid, the same substance found in sugarcane. Then, in mid 1700s German physicist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf confirmed the presence of sugar in beet, and in 1784, his student Franz Karl Achard managed to establish the first beet sugar processing plant; thus, the European sugar beet industry was born. In 1900 between 60% and 90% of raw sugar bought into the UK for refining was beet sugar from Austria and Germany. During the First World War nearly all raw sugar switched to cane sugar, the rationing quotas of which was controlled by Charles Eastick, founder of Ragus, who was awarded the M.B.E. for his service. Charles realised Britain’s vulnerability in the supply of sugar, so as the need was great, we started to grow our own beet.

How do we get Sugar from Sugar Beet?

The Field:
Sugar beet is a biennial plant which builds up a store of sugar in its roots during the first year of its biological cycle, then in the second year it uses its stored sugar to flower and seed. However, it is at the end of the first year that the beet is harvested to extract the sugar.

The beet seeds are sown in Mid-March and then the crop is harvested in September – December. To harvest the beet, the farmers cut off the green tops, remove the beets from the ground, cleans them and they are then put on trailers. The green tops are not wasted, they are used for animal feeds or as fertilizer.

Beet sugar being grown; Ragus supports all its farmers and producers with advice and support on how to optimiseefficiencies, and promote the cause of sustainable sugar production

The Sugar Factory:
· Once harvested, the beet is transported to sugar factories where the beet is washed and sliced.
· The beet slices are placed into a huge rotating cylinder full of hot water as the sugar needs to be separated from the rest of the plant.
· The sugar diffuses out of the beet slices into the hot water, leaving a sugar bearing juice which is heated, together with lime and carbon dioxide gas, to form a chalk/calcium carbonate, in order to remove the non-sugar materials from the liquid; this is known as carbonatation.
· A pale-yellow sparkling juice is left, which is then gassed further in another tank (2nd Carbonatation) and filtered.
·The water is then boiled off from this yellow juice in steam heated evaporators to form a thick syrup.
· The thick syrup is then concentrated in vacuum tanks where the sugar crystals are formed; any remaining residual syrup is removed from the finished crystals in a centrifuge.
The remaining crystals are then washed and dried, leaving the white sugar that we know and use.
· There is no wastage with sugar beet, the remains of the beet once the juice is extracted, is used to make animal feed.
· When beet is processed correctly there is no difference between the white sugar extracted from beet to that of cane.

Ragus Facts:
We provide a complete service – from scouring the globe for the best and most sustainable sources of beet and pure cane sugar to manufacturing a wide range of sugars products and delivering on-time and in-full to customers across the world. Our products span pure sugars and syrups to special formulations created by our expert team on site at our laboratory in the UK.

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