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A Ragus tanker transporting Eastick’s golden syrup product

Golden syrup in granular detail

07/03/2024 By Ben Eastick in Products

Golden syrup is an amber coloured, viscous and intensely sweet pure sugar syrup that is mainly used as a functional ingredient in baking. It is also used as a topping for desserts and breakfasts. The product was first formulated by Ragus’ founder, the chemist Charles Eastick, in 1883. At the time, Eastick worked at the Abram Lyle & Sons refinery in London. Since 1885, the golden syrup tin has been a familiar feature on store shelves and is regarded as the world’s oldest unchanged brand packaging.

In this blog, we take a closer look at golden syrup: what it is, how it is made and manufactured, its benefits, how it is used, and how it should be stored in the interests of food and beverage producers.

What is golden syrup?

Golden syrup is an invert sugar, a thick sweet liquid made from sucrose (table sugar) and water. It has the colour and consistency of medium honey with a distinctive caramel taste. It is 20% sweeter than sucrose yet has a mellow flavour, making it ideal for use as a functional ingredient for flavour, colour, texture, mouthfeel and as a preservative in tarts, cookies, flapjacks and other baked goods.

A runny, pale-brown liquid flowing out of a steel tube

Golden syrup has a similar consistency to treacle and honey.

In terms of product appearance, golden syrup should not be confused with treacle. Though both have a similar consistency, treacle is manufactured differently to be darker in colour and has a more bitter, liquorice-like flavour that comes from the molasses used in its formulation.

How is golden syrup made?

Golden syrup can be manufactured from sucrose refined from either sugarcane or sugar beet. The disaccharide sucrose molecule is made from two monosaccharides, glucose and fructose. As an invert sugar, golden syrup is made via a process called hydrolysis. During this process, the sucrose is combined with water and heated until the chemical bonds between the glucose and the fructose break apart. Once the bonds break, the result is an intensely sweet liquid, or syrup.

As a result of hydrolysis, the structure of the chemical bonds between the sugar molecules changes, or ‘inverts’, the direction in which polarised light travels through them, hence the name invert sugar. Specifically, golden syrup is a partially inverted sugar as it retains more sucrose compared to fully inverted sugar following this process.

To manufacture golden syrup in bulk, just over 60% of the required sucrose is heated with water in a large inversion pan at 70°. The rest of the sucrose is added in a second stage. A pH level below 1.6 is necessary to form a syrup, and this occurs as the sucrose bonds break into separate glucose and fructose molecules.

Two Ragus workers in a manufacturing plant testing product from a silo

Golden syrup can be manufactured from sucrose refined from either sugarcane or sugar beet.

The liquid is polarised to –14 before a natural alkaline agent is added to neutralise it and raise the pH level to 6 or over. Further heating in the inversion pan caramelises the sugars and gives the syrup its distinctive golden colour and mellow flavour. The remaining sucrose is then added to the inversion pan and dissolved. This changes the polarisation to +20. In one of the final stages, the syrup is filtered to remove any impurities before being placed in maturation tanks for storage.

For strongly coloured partial inverts like golden syrup, the temperatures and times vary depending on the flavour and colour that needs to be achieved. Golden syrup is heated for longer, so the sugars have time to caramelise.

To this day, Ragus remains true to Charles Eastick’s original formulation, only our golden syrup is manufactured in our state-of-the-art facility in Slough. Watch this video to learn how Ragus sources raw sugars for golden syrup and manufactures it in bulk for industry.

The functional benefits of golden syrup

Golden syrup’s functional properties are its unique characteristics. It performs a similar function to other invert sugars in that it sweetens foods and beverages, but golden syrup’s amber colour, caramel flavour and ability to withstand high temperatures makes it ideal in baking. A humectant, golden syrup helps products like cakes and biscuits retain their moisture for longer.

Invert sugars like golden syrup also prevent the crystallisation that can occur with sucrose. This helps to improve and maintain a product’s texture, while the water absorbing properties prolonging shelf life. As inverts like golden syrup can prevent crystallisation and lower freezing points, it is commonly used in the making of ice cream and sorbet, ensuring a smooth, scoopable consistency.

Scooping vanilla ice cream

Invert sugars like golden syrup prevent crystallisation and lower the freezing point, making it ideal in the making of ice cream, where a smooth, scoopable consistency is required.

Its viscosity and colour, along with its flavour, make it a popular choice as a dessert and breakfast topping. For example, its colour and sweetness make grain-based breakfasts such as porridge more palatable and attractive. Golden syrup’s amber colour and intensely sweet flavour are also used to enhance the look and taste of wheat flour pancakes.

Golden syrup applications

Golden syrup is used in many other applications, including:

  • Biscuits

  • Flapjacks

  • Cookies

  • Cakes, such as ginger cake

  • Tarts, in particular treacle tart

  • Desserts, such as treacle sponge

  • On waffles, pancakes and porridge

  • Some snack mixes, cereals and nutritional bars

  • Fudge

Golden syrup vs maple syrup

Though both products have an amber appearance, there is a big difference between golden syrup and maple syrup. Maple syrup is produced from the sap of the sugar maple tree. The sap is boiled and allowed to evaporate to leave a thick syrup residue. By contrast, golden syrup is made from cane sugar or sugar beet.

Quality control in manufacturing golden syrup

Quality control is important throughout the golden syrup manufacturing process. Control measures include responsible sourcing of the raw ingredients and testing for brix, pH levels, the appropriate colour and consistency.

It is also important to store golden syrup in such a way that it maintains its quality and application efficacy. Golden syrup needs to be kept in a cool (15-20°C), dry environment away from direct sunlight and other odours or contaminants. If unopened, golden syrup has a shelf life of up to 18 months before crystallisation and spoiling can occur.

A woman wearing a cap in a manufacturing plant, testing on a machine

At Ragus, quality control is an important part of the golden syrup manufacturing process.

The golden syrup market and consumer trends

The global invert sugar market has grown in recent years and this trend is expected to continue, with a compound annual growth rate of 5% between this year and 2028. This growth may be attributed to the steady use of invert sugars in beverages, innovations in food technology, and demand for inverts in the pharmaceutical sector, for example, for enhancing the taste of cough medicines.

In addition, honey is often regarded as a golden syrup alternative. However, honey is not a vegan product as it is produced by honeybees, but golden syrup is. As interest in veganism expands, this may increase consumer demand for golden syrup as a sweetener in baked goods and as a topping on popular breakfast foods like cereals, pancakes and waffles.  

Ragus manufactures high-quality golden syrups and a range of other pure sugar products for industrial food and beverage producers. To learn more, contact our Customer Services Team. For more sugar news and Ragus updates, keep browsing SUGARTALK and follow Ragus on LinkedIn. 

Ben Eastick

A board member and co-leader of the business, Ben is responsible for our marketing strategy and its execution by the agency team he leads and is the guardian of our corporate brand vision. He also manages key customers and distributors.

In 2005, he took on the role of globally sourcing our ‘speciality sugars’. With his background in laboratory product testing and following three decades of supplier visits, his expertise means we get high quality, consistent and reliable raw materials from ethical sources.

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