How is sugar used in our favourite Halloween and Bonfire Night treats?

Oct 31 2019

As today is Halloween and next week is Bonfire Night, we thought it would be a good idea to use it as an opportunity to talk about the ever-growing treat market these two events fuel, looking at the central role sugar plays.

The sweets and treats market

Halloween and Bonfire Night are two of the biggest holidays of the year for the British consumer market. According to Statista, retail expenditure on Halloween alone has risen from £230 million in 2013 to £419 million in 2018. While this was also spent on costumes, pet costumes and decorations, the survey suggests that 40% of shoppers bought sweets and chocolate for Halloween in 2017, with each shopper’s average spending on Halloween treats at £10.

Clearly, Halloween is big business for the confectionary market. When combined with Bonfire Night, the market grows even larger. So, here is a list of our favourite Halloween and Bonfire Night treats, and a short explanation of the sugar element in each recipe.

 

Toffee apples

When one considers Halloween treats, the first thought that springs to mind are these crunchy classics. The secret to making the crispy toffee is by simmering caster sugar in water before adding golden syrup and bubbling until the mixture reaches 140°c. Then, all we need to do is dip our apples into the toffee sauce and allow them to set.

Homemade lollipops

Homemade lollipops are fun to make and are great to hand out to trick or treaters. Like toffee apples, the sugars involved in making lollipops are caster sugar and golden syrup, as well as icing sugar for dusting. The process involves stirring together caster sugar, water and golden syrup until the sugar has dissolved, before bringing to the boil and allowing it to set.

Treacle toffee

This dark and sticky sweet is the perfect accompaniment to fireworks and sparklers. The ingredients behind treacle toffee are dark brown sugar, black treacle and golden syrup. The process starts by dissolving the brown sugar in water, before adding the treacle and syrup. Then, all we need to do is bring to the boil and allow it to set.

Marshmallows

No Bonfire Night would be complete without toasting a marshmallow on the fire in the back garden. This time, the ingredients are caster sugar, liquid glucose, and icing sugar for dusting, and the process involves heating the caster sugar and liquid glucose with water in a pan.

Different purposes of individual sugars

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it does draw attention to the type of sugars and syrups used when making these treats. While some of the recipes above use the same sugars, it is worth remembering that they are used differently for each purpose, and it is important to know these differences when deciding which sugar to use for your purpose.

For information on which of our sugar products is best suited to your needs, contact us on +44 (0)1753 575353 or sales@ragus.co.uk.

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Sugar supply chain: how does it all link together?

Oct 24 2019

At Ragus, we take great pride in the transparency of our supply chain. We understand how important it is for consumers to see every step of the journey, from growing to delivery. So, for this week’s blog, we thought it would be a good idea to draw attention to our supply chain for crystalline sugar, explaining the process and highlighting which elements are particularly important to us.

Sourcing

Our sugar is sourced from both sugar beet grown in Europe and sugar cane, which we source from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Sugar cane can only be grown in hot, tropical climates. It takes approximately twelve months from planting to harvest sugar cane, and seven months from planting to harvest beet. Local mills process raw cane into sugar crystals, before the further stage of refining into white sugar, whereas beet sugar is processed directly into white sugar. For a more explicit description of the crystallisation process, follow this link to our learning zone: https://www.ragus.co.uk/learning-zone/

Once sugar has been crystallised, we source the highest quality sugar so that we can manufacture the best quality sugar products. In practice, this means travelling to these sites and assessing first-hand whether the growing and processing meets our high standards.

A 90-year heritage in the sugar industry means we have become experts in sourcing. We understand that the key to sourcing is the building of relationships with reliable and trustworthy suppliers. But, in order to form any relationship with a supplier, we need to make sure that their sugar is ethically grown. We have attained accreditations with several international bodies that require transparent and ethical business standards to further emphasise our responsible approach. These include, but are not limited to, Bonsucro, Fairtrade Foundation and Supplier Ethical Data Exchange.

Maintaining quality relationships is the most crucial aspect of our approach to ensuring there is a long-term, quality and sustainable supply of sugar. However, there is an awareness that any potential Brexit deal could have implications for our relationships with our suppliers. Ragus are taking a range of initiatives to combat this Brexit uncertainty, which are detailed in the following blog: https://www.ragus.co.uk/ragus-take-steps-to-combat-continuing-brexit-uncertainty/

 

Manufacturing

When we have sourced the best quality sugars from around the world, we import them to our state-of-the-art factory in Berkshire, UK. Our multi-million-pound facility was purpose built and opened in 2013 and adheres to all major European manufacturing standards (BRC and ISO 9001 included). As most of our machinery has been custom-engineered, we can carry out technical procedures that provide us with the ability to manufacture highly specialised custom formulations that our customers demand.

The size of our complex allows Ragus to process hundreds of tonnes of sugars every day, and we ensure quality control by test analysing incoming raw materials and finished products for consistency, taste and texture. One of our most challenging goals is to reduce carbon emissions year-on-year, and the specification of the factory is integral to this. You can find more detail on sustainability at Ragus in the following blog: https://www.ragus.co.uk/safeguarding-sustainability-at-ragus/

For greater insight into life in the factory, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5ZXLh7FUv4&feature=youtu.be

Delivering

The final stage in the supply chain is the delivery of the finished product. For a full description of our delivery practice, follow this link: https://www.ragus.co.uk/what_we_do/delivering/

To ensure we distribute the finished product on time and in full, we incorporate the latest logistics systems to help us plan our routes and timings. Our customer base ranges from small independents to major multinationals, and we ship our tailor-made products all over the world. We are committed to providing the highest levels of service from sourcing to delivery, and our industry leading performance delivery figures are further testament to this ethos.

The above is merely a snapshot of Ragus’ supply chain. You can find more detailed information concerning our supply chain across our website, or if you would like to speak to us directly about our supply chain, you can contact us on +44 (0)1753 575353 or sales@ragus.co.uk.

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India becomes world’s biggest sugar producer: but at what cost?

Oct 17 2019

Indian Council of Agricultural Research Assistant Director-General, R.K. Singh, has declared that India have overtaken Brazil to become the world’s largest sugar producing nation. However, it has brought into the focus the country’s number one sugar-based issue – overproduction. In this blog, I’ll look at what this means for the Indian sugar industry and consider how a system of co-production could be applied to tackle the issue.

Surplus of sugar

The announcement that India have outscored Brazil in sugar production can’t be seen as wholly positive. It is estimated that India will produce 35 million tonnes of crystalline sugar this year, but with domestic demand sitting at 26 million tonnes, the market is oversupplied. Indian exports of 3.4 million tonnes have also fallen short of the country’s 5 million tonne target, further compounding the issue. And these are just the figures for the past year. When we consider these alongside total surplus from previous years, we can estimate that India has a total stockpile of 14.5 million tonnes of sugar.

Consequently, sugar mills are beginning to close and farmers losing their source of income. Approximately 35-50 million Indian people depend on sugar cultivation as a means of survival, which is why the government cannot allow the sector to collapse. As they also do not have a way of finding these unskilled farmers a different means of employment, they need to act quickly to make the sugar industry profitable again.

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

Is ethanol the answer?

One approach to this problem could be the adoption of a system similar to the one used in Brazil. This system centres on the co-production of both sugar and ethanol from sugar cane. According to AB Sugar, 94% of Brazilian mills produce both sugar and ethanol. Therefore, this means that producers can react to changes in the international market. If the price of sugar increases, mills produce sugar, if it falls, they produce ethanol.

The Brazilian government have supported this system by imposing a range of measures to encourage the co-production of sugar and ethanol. For instance, the state-controlled company Petrobras provides a minimum price for blended ethanol. Similarly, the National Bank for Social and Economic Development has set up a sugar-ethanol support programme to help finance ethanol storage. Measures such as these have helped drive the recent expansion of Brazil’s ethanol industry, which in turn benefits the wider sugar supply chain.

As the sugar and ethanol industries are commercially interdependent, any support offered to one can benefit the other. In addition, it means sugar farmers have a contingency plan if one product fails.

Should India follow Brazil’s lead?

Mr. Singh has called on Indian sugar factories to adopt the Brazilian model, which will help the industry diversify and provide Indian sugar farmers with additional security when sugar prices fall. It is hard to disagree with Mr. Singh. The implementation of the co-production of sugar and ethanol is a must for Indian sugar factories if they are hoping to survive in this current economic climate. Ethanol production could effectively counter the sugar surplus and keep workers in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra employed.

However, the problem now will be the implementation of co-production. To do so, the Indian government will need to impose initiatives which encourage the production of ethanol – otherwise it will be hard to convince factory owners to move into the ethanol industry. That is the challenge facing the Indian government, but it is one they should address if they are to solve the sugar surplus problem.

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Granular detail: demerara sugar

Oct 10 2019

What is demerara sugar?

Demerara sugar is a raw cane sugar with a relatively coarse grain size. It is known for its amber colour and caramel flavour, which is formed from cane juice during extraction from the crushed cane. Primarily, demerara sugar is used for topping products and adding crunch in baking applications.

It takes its names from the former British colony of Demerara, which is now a region in present day Guyana, South America. This was due to the volcanic soil found through the region proving to be ideal for growing sugarcane. Nowadays, most demerara sugar comes from Mauritius.

As it is less refined than white sugar, demerara sugar contains marginally less sucrose: 88-93% compared to white sugar’s 96-98%. Alongside this, it is also a great source of vital minerals, such as magnesium, manganese, zinc and cobalt.

 How is demerara sugar produced?

One of the key benefits of demerara sugar is that it undergoes minimal processing:

– First, the sugarcane is cut, cleaned and crushed to extract its natural juice.

– Then, to purify the juice, it is boiled with evaporators in a vacuum, causing it to also thicken into a sweet amber juice.

– This juice is then seeded with sugar crystals, which grow to create a super-saturated massecuite syrup. During this process, molasses develops. At this stage, the crystals need to be separated from the syrup, and it is therefore placed in a centrifugal machine to remove the majority of the molasses content.

Such little processing is what gives demerara sugar its colour and highly unique flavour, both of which are a result of the molasses retained in the final sugar. Despite popular opinion, this does not mean it is any better or worse for us than white sugar, as it contains near enough the same number of calories.

What products is demerara sugar used in?

Traditionally, demerara sugar has been used to sweeten coffee, with its mellow caramel notes and distinctive amber colour complementing coffee’s bitter taste. As well as this, it is also used in baking, cooking and beverages. Demerara sugar’s coarse texture means it is particularly suited to baked goods, especially when looking to add a crunchy topping to products such as flapjacks and crumbles. For the same reason, it is used to increase the spread of biscuits.

When cooking, it is great to add to sauces. For instance, along with honey and mustard, demerara sugar can be added to help create a crispy glaze when roasting gammon. We are now also seeing lots of bartenders adding demerara sugar to cocktails comprised of dark spirits such as whiskey and rum – the most obvious example being a Cuban mojito.

The use of demerara sugar is broad, and it allows bakers, chefs and bartenders to really draw on their creative flair by adding a unique touch to recipes.

Ragus’ demerara sugar expertise

Producing demerara can appear to be simple, but Ragus goes to great lengths to source the finest raw sugars that are carefully selected for their purity, colour, grain size and flavour. In doing so, we are able to produce the perfect bulk sugar for our clients.

Moreover, by honing our processes for natural cane sugar sieving and metal detecting to remove any impurities, based on our experience over the last 90 years, Ragus deliver demerara sugar on time and in full to a global customer network.

Do you require demerara sugar for your application? Contact Ragus now to order.

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2020 Sugar Beet contract: what does it mean and how will it affect the industry?

Oct 03 2019

The Terms

The NFU and British Sugar have announced terms for both a one-year contract, and a three-year contract for sugar beet growers. On 18 September, the NFU reported the terms of the contract: “A one-year contract will be offered for 2020 at a contract price of £19.60/t” and, “a three-year contract will be offered for 2020-22 at a price of £20.45/t.” This marks the first time since 2017 that there has been an option for a three-year contract.

How does the contract compare with recent years?

The one-year contract is an increase on last year’s price of £19.07/t. However, when we compare with the terms from 2017/18 and 2018/19, (£22.00/t and £22.50/t respectively), a trend of falling prices emerges. When announcing the contract, British Sugar continued to maintain that their priority was to “deliver the fairest possible deal for growers and the processor.”

This comes at a time when many farmers were hoping for greater support from the NFU during the negotiations, with one stakeholder stating, “I don’t think the growers are militant enough.” Many growers were already aggrieved with the late agreement of the contract, arguing that it is too late in the year. As this contract announcement has been further delayed, beet growers will legitimately feel that it has not provided them with enough time to thoroughly evaluate their harvest options.

To that end, the 2020/21 contract terms have been released amidst a backdrop of problems for British growers. Foremost among these has been the loss of key agrochemicals, including neonicotinoids – banned by the EU in 2018. (You can find out more about these insecticides in a previous blog post, here.) This ban has been compounded by an extremely hot summer, resulting in low yields. With these factors in mind, British sugar beet growers were hoping to be compensated with a greater increase in contract terms.

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

Potential consequences for the British sugar industry

 Colm McKay, British Sugar’s Agriculture Director, claims that the 2020/21 contract is ‘more attractive’ – many growers, however, would be inclined to disagree . For instance, at face value, the three-year contract appears to be more beneficial because it provides growers with price security for those three years. However, when growers are annually reassessing whether sugar beet is the most viable product for their land, many will be hesitant to be tied down to a three-year contract.

Richard Allison, editor of Farmers Weekly, has predicted that many sugar beet farmers will start to look at other crops instead, stating ‘there will be no let up next season and the crop is starting to look less attractive.’ This is a view echoed by many contributors in The Farming Forum, pointing to possible future issues for British sugar beet.

Contract negotiations also took place against a backdrop of a relatively tumultuous global sugar market. World prices have fallen to a ten year low and there is a global surplus of sugar, with these highly accumulated stocks needing to be absorbed by the market before we can see any improvement in price. Recent activity points to a recovery in the global price of sugar and if this trend continues, British beet farmers may hope for more favourable terms in the 2021/22 contract.

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