Granular detail: Muscovado sugar

Sep 05 2019

Muscovado sugar is a popular sugar product used the world over. In our latest edition of Granular Detail, we dive into everything there is to know about this molasses-rich sugar.

What is muscovado sugar?

‘Muscovado’ is derived from a mixture of the Portuguese ‘açúcar mascavado’ and the Spanish ‘azúcar mascabado’, meaning unrefined sugar. Despite this European influenced etymology, muscovado sugar is still a cane sugar and therefore does go through a partial refinery process. The method for muscovado sugar does differ from white granulated cane sugar, as the molasses juice in the sugar cane is not removed (as it is with white) giving it a caramel like flavour.

As there is no legal definition for muscovado or international coding standards, various sugar products use the name ‘muscovado’, regardless of the refinery process, leading to confusion on the difference between brown and muscovado sugar. Brown sugar often serves as an adequate replacement in the baking industry, depending on what end product is being produced, but they are subtly different. Unlike muscovado, which retains a high percentage of molasses on the crystal, raw cane brown sugars are spun for longer in the centrifuge leaving a less adhering film of molasses on the crystal.

Some brown sugars are not produced from the raw cane but can be white granulated sugar with the molasses blended to the crystal, meaning brown sugar can be produced from beet or cane sugar. With a fine grain texture, this crystalline is dark brown in colour and has a moist texture making it ideal for the baking industry. Also, due to its high molasses content, muscovado sugar contains high levels of minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium.

 

What products is muscovado sugar used in?

Muscovado sugar’s rich flavour and moisture density mean it is primarily used in the baking industry, such as in chocolate-based preparations like brownies or cookies. The same qualities also mean it is ideally suited to use in fruit cakes and Christmas cakes.

As muscovado has a fine texture, it is also used in chutneys, pickles, toffee and savoury sauces, helping to accentuate the smoky flavours in the latter. To add to its diverse usage, it can also be used in salad dressings, glazes on meats or in ice-cream for a bittersweet caramelised taste. And as it is a crystalline sugar containing high levels of molasses, it enables a one product application replacing the need to use both molasses and white sugar.

How is muscovado sugar produced?

Muscovado comes from sugar cane and goes through part of the refinery process that is used to produce partially refined raw sugar. The process starts with cutting, cleaning and crushing the sugar cane, its sweet natural juice is then heated and purified. Evaporators then boil the raw juice in a vacuum to remove the natural water, creating a very sweet and thick amber juice.

The resulting amber juice is then seeded with sugar crystals which grow to create a super-saturated massecuite syrup. It is during this process that the colour, flavour and aroma of molasses is formed. In order to separate the crystals, the massecuite syrup has to be spun in a centrifugal machine.

The now 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 raw sugar, shipped in bulk for white sugar refining. The third and fourth spins are mixed with a magma of molasses which produces among other products muscovado sugar.

90 years’ experience in the sugar industry means Ragus has a wealth of knowledge on the muscovado sugar you need for your application. Contact us now to order yours.

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What is Fair trade sugar?

Aug 23 2019

Fair trade has risen to become one of the most respected certifications of fair and ethical food production in the world. But what does it mean for sugar?

What is fair trade and how does it work?

Fair trade is an agreement between institutions designed to help producers achieve better prices for what they grow and as a result improved living conditions. Its focus is on products or commodities that have a history of being imported from developing to developed countries, such as a sugar, coffee and chocolate. Several national and international federations are tasked with promoting and co-ordinating the work required to achieve the fair trade goal, the most well-known of which to UK consumer’s is The Fairtrade Foundation.

The Fairtrade Foundation seeks to enact the fair trade mission through several means. As well as lobbying governments and setting workers’ rights standards, the foundation also works directly with farmers, and, most visibly of all, certifies products and ingredients. The end result of this is a fairer world in which growers are paid a respectable wage for their role in producing our food.

These ambitions and measures are impacting growers across the globe. There are currently 1.66 million farmers and workers in 1,411 producer organisations spanning 73 countries, with this number and impact of the scheme growing all the time. Moreover, producers received €158.3 million in Fairtrade premiums in 2016.

Cut Sugar Cane

Why do sugar cane farmers need fair trade?

Around 80% of the world’s sugar comes from sugar cane, with this being grown by millions of small-scale farmers and plantation works in primarily developing countries. In an industry as vast and complex as the global sugar trade, it is little surprise that these farmers have almost no influence on key trade decisions. What’s more, international trade laws have traditionally made it more difficult for these farmers to access the lucrative markets of Europe and North America, forcing them to compete with wealthier, more powerful countries without the resources to match.

As a result, small hold cane farmers often receive a price for their crop that fails to cover growing costs. The knock-on effect of this can be devastating for the entire community in which farmers live and work. Family members are frequently drawn into working on the cane farm, limiting their chances of receiving any form of education and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Causing further disruption to producers in the developing world is the EU’s 2017 decision to remove production quotas on sugar production. Previously, farmers in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) sold cane to the EU market using production quotas and received payments artificially higher than the world market price for sugar. This preferential treatment has now ended, plunging growers into further uncertainty.

How does Fairtrade improve the lives of sugar farmers?

Although sugar is a vital crop to the economies of many developing countries, the benefits are rarely passed down the chain to small scale farmers. Focussing on these smallholder farmers, Fairtrade certification currently covers 54,000 people in 19 countries. Its main means of support is economic, offering a Fairtrade Premium of $60 per tonne of sugar on top of the negotiated price.

Such is the impact of the premium, it has resulted in farmers in Malawi having enough money to invest in equipment and means of operation that has increased productivity by 21%. Moreover, the premiums have also allowed local communities to build vital infrastructure like boreholes and primary schools, as well as contributing to the electrification of entire villages.

Initiatives like the Fairtrade premium also allow growers to stake a bigger claim in the sugar supply chain. For example, cane farmers in Maduvira co-operative in Paraguay were able to generate enough revenue to purchase their own sugar mill. In removing another step from the supply chain, they were able to access even more value than before.

At Ragus, we are proud to offer Fairtrade and organic options on many of our sugar products. Visit our product finder to discover yours.

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Why should sugar be sourced ethically?

Aug 01 2019

Sugar production begins with sourcing. At Ragus our 90-year history as an independent importer of sugar underpins our approach to product traceability and ethical sourcing of beet and cane sugar.

Where does Ragus source its sugar?

Although both can be used to produce a whole range of sugar products, sugar cane and sugar beet require much different growing conditions. Sugar cane is a tropical plant, meaning it thrives in hot sunny places like India, Cuba and the West Indies. Sugar beet, on the other hand, prefers more temperate climates, and as such is grown in areas such as Europe, China and Canada.

For Ragus Sugars, this means keeping track of a range of suppliers situated across the globe to ensure all our raw materials maintain an ethical and exploitation-free provenance. In order to achieve this, we first assess all available suppliers in sugar-growing territories, selecting the most suitable for our requirements both now and in the future. After this, we then visit the chosen plantation, mill or refinery.

Ragus audits current and potential raw ingredient suppliers

Once onsite we assess the potential supplier to ensure they meet the high standards and responsibility values that define operations at Ragus. As well as visiting suppliers, we also use technology to follow our sugar from plantation or field through the entire delivery chain into every syrup, crystalline or special sugar formulation produced at our factory.

Why does Ragus audit its sugar suppliers?

Where our food and its constituent ingredients originate from is more important to suppliers and consumers now than it ever has been before. At Ragus Sugars, part of our knowledge transfer strategy involves carrying out audits of potential and current suppliers to guarantee that not only is the sugar of a high standard but that all players in the supply chain are paid and treated fairly. The aim of these visits and partnerships is to promote and safeguard human rights and environmentally and socially sustainable supplier business.

Onsite filming for the new Ragus sourcing video

Recently, we spent time visiting and auditing a particular raw material supplier, producing a new Ragus Sugars sourcing video in the process. This will be available on our website and YouTube channel, with photos shared on social media in the lead up to its release.

To learn more about our commitment to ethical sourcing and the standards and accreditations we hold visit our responsibility section of the website.

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Sugar accreditations: another level of quality

Jun 28 2019

Having a high-quality sugar product is one thing – ensuring it is certified by some of the world’s leading bodies is what elevates sugar to another level. 

What are sugar accreditations?

As one of the most ubiquitous foodstuffs in the world, sugar comes under extreme quality control scrutiny to ensure that the global supply is safe for consumption and exactly as advertised. Accreditations take this process one step further, allowing sugar products to be certified against the unique and rigorous standards of a range of industry-specific bodies. Put simply, this is the difference between an ordinary bar of a chocolate and a certified bar.

The importance of these is the instant information they provide a potential buyer or end consumer. At a glance, they can quickly ascertain the merits of a sugar product, both in terms of the quality it offers an end product and the way it was sourced or produced. In theory, this could prove to be the difference between a sale and a buyer choosing another sugar product.

As such, Ragus Sugars’ proudly holds several accreditations. Although quality control is the second of our 10 corporate social responsibility (CSR) pillars, we believe having products that are further tested against these industry-specific standards is the best way to ensure our clients receive premium sugar products every time they order. Below are some examples of the accreditations we hold and their importance to our products.

ISO

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) is the world’s most recognised standard-setting body. Its ISO 9000 family of quality management systems ensure that organisations across the globe meet the statutory and regulatory requirements that customers and stakeholders demand. Through Quality Assurance Systems Ltd. Ragus Sugars is certified to have documented evidence showing adherence to ISO 9000, ISO 9000:2000, and ISO 14000.

British Retail Consortium Global Standard (BRCG)

The BRCG is a leading brand and consumer protection organisation used by over 28,000 suppliers across 130 countries that is primarily designed to deliver confidence in supply chains. Ragus Sugars holds BRGC certification in Food, Packaging, Consumer Products and Storage & Distribution, providing assurance to our customers that all aspects of our operations are of the highest safety and legal quality.

Bonsucro

Ragus Sugars is a member of Bonsucro, an internationally recognised not for-profit organisation whose primary mission is reduce the environmental and social impacts of sugarcane production.  This is achieved through its leading metric-based certification system and continuous support for all actors in the sugar supply chain. More on Bonsucro’s work can be found in our blog.

European Brewing Convention (EBC)

All our sugar products for the brewing industry adhere to the standards set out by the EBC. The EBC uses a special scale based on sugar and malts to grade the colour of a product. To determine this, a sample is taken and placed in a spectrophotometer, allowing the percentage of sugar to be analysed. From here, when the percentage of sugar is higher, the malt or sugar is darker.

Fairtrade Foundation

The Fairtrade Foundation is a global movement designed to ensure farmers and producers are paid fairly for their work. The core Fairtrade mark is a registered certification label that shows products adhere to the Fairtrade Standards. At Ragus Sugars, we are proud to offer several products that bear this mark.

Organic Food Federation

Companies that produce certified organic products and are registered with the Organic Food Federation can use the OFF symbol on relevant products. The use of this symbol on several of our products means they are fully compliant with the organic regulations. For Ragus Sugars this means the raw product sourced must be grown without the use of pesticides or genetic modification.

Sugar Mark

Being able to use the Sugarmark symbol means we adhere to the internal quality criteria ‘Codex Alimentarius’ which was set up by the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the World Health Organisation and the United Nations. It is the global symbol of naturally grown sugar used by growers and producers and promotes the cause of good food for everyone, everywhere.

International Commission for Uniform Methods of Sugar Analysis (ICUMSA)

All our sugar from crystalline to syrup is tested against the ICUMSA scale which measures colour and moisture. The ICUMSA is a global body that brings together the activities of 20 member states from the National Committees for Sugar Analysis. This method of sugar grading by colour provides an easy way for producers to categorise sugars in line with globally recognised guidelines.

Having seen the accreditations we hold, visit our product finder for your next sugar product.

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Specialist sugars in medicated confectionary and cough syrups

Jun 18 2019

Sugar has been a staple in over-the-counter remedies for centuries. This week, we look at what different sugar products can help the medicine go down.

What is medicated confectionary?

Medicated confectionary is a medicinal product used to treat very minor ailments that take the form of a traditional piece of confectionary. Typically, this a hard-boiled sweet, lozenge or gum containing a formulation of medicine, sweetening agents and often vitamins or minerals that is used to alleviate the symptoms of coughs, colds and sore throats. As a result, medicated confectionary usually experiences a spike in popularity during the winter months.

In addition, their relative ease of access and ability to provide often instant relief make these products highly popular, so much so that Mordor Intelligence expects the global market to be worth $7.5 billion by 2023. As is the case with most pharmaceutical products (explored in more detail in a recent blog ), sugar plays a vital role in these products, both for taste and functional reasons.

Why is sugar used in cough syrups and medicated confectionary?

For medicated confectionary such as lozenges, glucose syrups aid in binding and solidifying the product, allowing the slow release of minerals and medicine to ease congestion, or sooth an irritated throat. Using glucose syrup, a liquid, reduces the risk of potentially damaging crystallisation and helps to ensure the right mouthfeel and texture of the final product.

 

Treacle improves the mouthfeel of cough syrups

Sugar also finds a home in nearly all cough syrups, however its role in these products differs. Cough syrups have a variety of ingredients and formulas, but most contain vitamins and different medicines to help ease throat irritations, coughs and colds. Without a sweetening agent these are often bitter and not particularly easy to swallow. The use of treacle which contains molasses masks the bitter flavours, as well as improving the mouthfeel and viscosity of the cough syrup and adding colour.

The molasses content in treacle is beneficial in the formulation of cough syrups as it contains a high level of trace minerals such as iron and calcium. Interestingly, due to the colour of cane sugar leaves, molasses can give the syrup a green tint. As a result, very small quantities of caramel can be used to improve colour to give it the red hue we often see. To extend the shelf life of a syrup, sugar glucose is best used as it can be stored for long periods of time.

What is the benefit of using Ragus Pure Sugars’ products?

As treacle, sugar glucose and caramel are all liquid solutions, the production of both cough mixture and medicated confectionary is made more energy efficient and economical. Unlike using crystalline, the sugar does not need to be dissolved into a liquid and then cooled. Using a liquid sugar product also reduces the manual handling required and no packaging handling therefore also reducing labour costs.

At Ragus Pure Sugars each syrup produced is tested to the highest standards in our state-of-the-art factory to ensure quality and consistency across all products to help you produce uniform products. We offer a range of products to suit different applications and offer consultations to talk through your requirements to help find a sugar that meets your needs.

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Granular detail: Liquid Sugar

Jun 14 2019

Liquid sugar is present in the food and drinks we consume daily. In this week’s blog we explain what it is, where it can be used and how it should be stored.

What is liquid sugar and what products can it be used in?
Liquid sugar is a water-based sucrose solution made from white refined sugar or natural raw cane sugar and water. Classed as a syrup, it has a dry substance content of 66%. The applications of liquid sugar can vary from mouthfeel, the physical sensation caused by a product in the mouth, to more traditional roles such as sweetening.

Due to its highly adaptable nature, liquid sugar is used in a variety of products. Its liquid form means it is ideally suited to soft drinks, with this property also meaning it is easy to manage and handle. Moreover, as the sucrose is a fluid, it automates some of the production process for beverages, resulting in a quicker manufacturing process compared to using crystalline sugar.

Alongside this, liquid sugar can also easily and effectively add bulk to a diverse range of foodstuffs. These include dairy products, ice cream, and confectionery products such as toffee. Liquid sugars can also be used to aid initial fermentation in beer and cider, and then be used to prime them for secondary fermentation in the cask or bottle and it can be used to coat cereal bars.

Liquid sugar has a wide range of applications, from the production of toffee to aiding initial beer and cider fermentation

What are the benefits of using Ragus Pure Sugars’ liquid sugar?
When producing a product such as a soft drink, or even toffee, the process needs to be as streamlined as possible in order to reduce production time while still ensuring a consistent end result. Using liquid sugar, compared to a crystalline, speeds up production as the sugar is already in a solution, meaning it requires less manual handling and no packaging handling, thus reducing energy and labour costs. The other benefit of using liquid sugar is it helps ensure that every single batch is constantly the same, reducing the potential for contamination in the product process.

At Ragus’ Pure Sugars, every syrup we produce in our state-of-the-art factory is rigorously tested throughout the production process to ensure consistency and quality. From liquid sugar to invert, every treacle and syrup that is delivered is quality checked to help you produce consistent quality products.

What liquid sugar products do Ragus Pure Sugars produce?
Ragus Pure Sugars offer a range of sugar products, from liquid cane sugar and liquid refined sugar to custom formulations that meet organic and Fairtrade standards. To discover which of these is ideally suited to your application, use our product finder, the ideal tool for ensuring your end product is perfect every time.

Following this, we then offer a consultation with our customers to help you find the right sugar for your application and work with you to produce the sugar product that meets your needs.

For further information contact our sales team on the details below.

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