Crystalline sugars: what’s the difference?

Sep 19 2019

At Ragus, we have a wide range of crystalline sugars. But what is the difference between muscovado, demerara or white refined sugar?

What is a crystalline sugar?

Sucrose (table sugar) is a disaccharide, meaning it is a molecule composed of two monosaccharides, in this case, glucose and fructose. For both sugar beet or sugar cane, sucrose is extracted from a solution in water and then crystallised from a concentrated syrup.

Whether it’s sugar beet or sugar cane, a refinery process is required to produce either raw cane or white refined sugar. Both beet and cane are cut cleaned and crushed, with the natural juice heated and purified. The raw juice is then boiled with evaporators in a vacuum to create a thick and sweet amber juice.

The 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, so it is placed in a centrifugal machine. Whether the original material is cane or beet and what product is being produced determines the number of spins in the machine to remove the molasses content.

What is the difference between crystalline sugars?

Two factors determine the differences. The most important of these is molasses content. Adjusting this dramatically alters taste, texture and usage, resulting in the different types of crystalline sugars that Ragus use. The other difference is that whereas white refined sugar and brown sugar can be made from either sugar cane or sugar beet, muscovado sugar and raw cane demerara sugar must come from sugar cane.

White refined sugar represents a crystalline sugar with no molasses content. As such, it is called upon when sweetness rather than richness is required for an end product. Its light taste means it is ideal for adding sweetness to biscuits or as a bulking agent in yoghurt and beverages.

Raw cane sugar and demerara get their amber colour from the light amount of molasses present and have coarser crystals than refined white sugar. Both raw cane sugar and demerara are ideal for coffee table sugar or adding a mellow flavour to cereals.


Are muscovado and brown sugar different?

Yes – they are both unique sugars. Natural muscovado sugar is made exclusively from cane sugar and contains a high amount of cane molasses, resulting in a rich, deep flavour. It is also has a fine texture and is quite moist.

Conversely brown sugar contains varying levels of molasses, meaning it is available in a varying range of hues, tastes and textures. Not only that, brown sugar can be made from both sugar cane or sugar beet, with the production process altering depending on what is used. Due to its broad range of flavours, colour and texture, it can be used to add richness to savoury sauces or add colour to cakes and toffee.

As we have seen, different end products can require radically different crystalline sugars. To benefit from our 90 years of experience when choosing yours, contact Ragus now. 

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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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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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Specialist sugars and their applications

Apr 11 2019

In the UK, sugar usually means the white granules derived from sugar beet. But there is a wide range of specialist sugars used in the products we consume every day.


Sugar is sourced from natural sugar cane and beet. In both cases the raw material goes through a refining process involving cutting, cleaning, juice extraction, centrifugal spinning and boiling, with sugar cane then going on to be passed through the centrifuge multiple times. This is to remove any impurities and to extract the sugar ready for processing.

The process for refining both beet and Cane can be adjusted in various ways, such as changing temperature levels or the number of passes through the centrifuge. These changes lead to the different types of sugar crystals, which in turn can be used to produce golden syrups, invert sugars and custom formulations.

We offer a range of sugar variations and can create custom formulations for use in a wide variety of applications. We manufacture sugar to fit your product requirements, such as making soft drinks, liquorice or cereal.


What is treacle and molasses used for?


Molasses is collected during the Cane refining process. It has a dark colour, with a very strong flavour profile and, as it has a thick viscosity, is perfect for savoury sauces and liquorice.

Molasses can be blended with invert syrups to form treacle, which is made up of different percentages of molasses and invert sugar syrup. Treacle gives a softer, rounder flavour compared to the almost bittersweet molasses. With a colour range of black through to a dark brown, treacle is often used in cooking sauces and rich fruit cakes and can also be used as a natural food colourant.


What is the difference between golden syrup and inverts?


Both golden syrup and invert sugars contain fructose-glucose, but that is where the similarities end. Golden syrup also contains sucrose, giving it a very sweet and light flavour and a golden colour.

Inverts are flavourless and colourless and are often used in the baking industry, usually to extend the shelf life of bread. Golden syrup, however, is used in products such as flapjacks as it binds the product together and enhances flavour.

When looking for a sugar with a high viscosity to stabilise a product, such as the chewiness of a soft mint, glucose syrup is a practical option. Unlike invert and golden, it is produced by breaking down maize or wheat and, although it is less sweet than invert, can be used as a sweet bulking agent.



What is blended and sieved sugar?


Blended sugar is granulated in form and is white sugar premixed with molasses and burnt sugar in order to give it a golden-brown colour. This method provides a consistent colour often needed for products such as biscuits and cereals.

Sieved sugars are very popular in the baking industry, as it provides you with different particle sizes from coarse to very fine powder. Think of the contrast between particle size of golden caster sugar, which is more like a powder, and Demerara sugar.


Something more specialised – custom formulations


Blended sugar is granulated in form and is made up of white sugar premixed with molasses to give a light to dark brown colour. This method provides a consistent colour in the industrial production of biscuits and cereals.

Due to their ability to provide sizes ranging from coarse to very fine powder, sieved sugars are very popular in the baking industry. We sieve, metal detect and bag the sugar in our UK factory to ensure premium quality.

For more information on our range visit our product finder, or if your application requires a custom formulation, contact us for a consultation.

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Ragus Pure Sugars’ Kay Sandhu earns Chairman’s Award at the Nestlé Supplier Awards 2019

Mar 21 2019

Ragus Pure Sugars also named as a top 10 UK supplier. Kay’s Individual Award for Above and Beyond recognises our ‘never say no’ approach to meeting client demands.


Double recognition for Ragus Pure Sugars


Our top 10 ranking by Nestlé comes after achieving perfection on over 97% of deliveries. We are all delighted to receive such praise from a company of Nestlé’s stature and believe our ‘never say no’ approach to customer supply requests means we will only continue to the climb the rankings.

Such an honour is not possible without a team effort, but we must also congratulate Kay Sandhu, our sales office manager, on her superb achievement. Receiving a Chairman’s Individual Award for Above and Beyond service from the largest food company in the world is no mean feat. It is the perfect recognition of Kay’s tireless efforts in creating such high levels of customer satisfaction and ensuring every delivery strives for perfection.

“For our team’s work to be singled out by such a major global company is a real honour,” says Kay. “Everyone in the sales department is delighted to receive such praise for our work with Nestlé. Now let’s get to 100% perfection and make the top five supplier list!”

As well as Ragus being named a top 10 UK supplier, our sales office manager Kay Sandhu, pictured above, received a Chairman’s individual Award for Above and Beyond.

What are the Nestlé Supplier Awards?


The Nestlé Supplier Awards are an annual event in which Nestlé recognise the individuals who deliver for them every day. We as suppliers play an important role ensuring Nestle can deliver for its customers, with the ceremony and awards recognising every aspect of the supply chain that makes this possible. Nestlé ranks its list of UK suppliers based on their ability to match a specific set of standards across all deliveries for the year, with a panel of judges then awarding both individuals and companies awards to reflect this.

How are suppliers ranked by Nestlé?


Nestlé measures each delivery its suppliers make against a vendor evaluation scorecard (VES). The VES sets out an exacting set of strict criteria that every delivery must meet, with these being centred on key factors such as time and quantity. Percentage scores are then given for each delivery based on the number of constituent items that complied with the VES. This means that if a delivery contains two items and one of them fails to meet just a single VES criteria, the entire shipment earns just 50%!

“Being assessed in such a tough way makes the award win even sweeter,” concludes Kay. “It’s great to see our focus on quality, consistency and responsiveness to our customers’ needs come to fruition in this way, and we hope it leads to even greater success at next year’s awards.”

Give us a chance to win your top supplier award for your pure sugars category – take a look at our product finder and then contact us.

Feature image ©2019Nestlé

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Can syrups take the place of sugar in bakery?

Jul 02 2018

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

With the government targeting refined sugar as part of its drive to cut obesity, bakers can use syrups to create sweetness in baked goods, but what complications do they bring?

In the ongoing clamour to cut sugar from the nation’s diets – given fresh impetus by last month’s Public Health England findings  – baked goods need special consideration as sugar does a lot more than sweeten – it adds texture, crumb and colour, and helps keep them moist.

But when it comes to reducing the sugar content of baked goods, syrups offer potential as they are sweeter and have other benefits. “Depending on the exact type of syrup used, they are around 40% sweeter than sucrose (granulated sugar) so less syrup is needed in a formulation,” says Ben Eastick, director at sugar and syrups supplier Ragus.

“Syrups also perform the role of a binding agent, moisture attractant and flavour enhancer, as well as aiding and controlling colour development in baking.”

Ben Eastick, Director at Ragus

Treacles, for example, can add a robust flavour, are a natural food colourant and are high in minerals (iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium), he explains, while cane treacle is a natural food supplement with over 5% of vitamin B6 daily requirements. And although syrups can cost around 20% more than sucrose, Eastick says this should be countered against their advantages. “Syrups are ready to mix, so reduce pre-mixing time, energy and labour costs,” he explains, “And depending on volume and application, they can also reduce raw material volume held in stock and costs.”

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