Sugar Talk Sugar Talk
Our sustainable pure sugars manufacturing strategy in action
We are implementing our sustainability strategy into our operations, including our pure sugars manufacturing. From sourcing our pure sugars to delivering them to our customers, we’re constantly looking for ways to innovate sustainability into everything we do.
Our new factory: built for the future
In 1883, in the midst of a UK sugar shortage when Ragus’ founder Charles Eastick ran a sugar analysis and consulting practice with his brother John, they found a way to turn the run-off from sugar refining into a new product. The result was golden syrup, the sticky family favourite that still fills shop shelves to this day. Who knew this was an early form of turning a waste stream into a new product?
In 2023, our determination to minimise waste, make the most of what we have and respect the environment around us is just as strong.
When managing director Peter Eastick led the team that designed our world-leading facility in Slough, Berkshire, he thought as far ahead into the future as he could, leaving room and creating infrastructure for all the upgrades we wanted to make over the coming decades. As a result, we brought selected key plant and equipment from our existing factory to avoid the waste and energy involved in starting from the beginning again.
Buying new, more energy-efficient equipment is always a balancing act. For instance, later this year, we’re planning to install new highly efficient burners for our boilers to replace our current ones. Because the original boilers were built to a very high standard, we’re retaining these. And the burners are future proofed with the capability to burn alternative fuels such as hydrogen. This flexibility – replacing burners whilst retaining the boilers – is an example of our original plant design allowing flexible, resource optimising, upgrades.
Saving resources: thinking today, planning for tomorrow
An easy and impactful way to save energy and costs is by ‘voltage optimisation’ (VO). Now fully installed at our factory, it’s a transformer-based technology which optimises the incoming supply from the national grid to match the voltage that our equipment needs. VO is now reducing our commercial energy use and costs, as well as lowering our carbon footprint and CO2 emissions.
To reduce waste and spoilage of our pure sugars, we have tanks of different sizes to help us to optimise the size and resource consumption of every batch we produce. All our CIP programmes are designed to meet food industry requirements and automated to use as little water as possible. To save energy, we use inverters so our motors don’t run at 100 percent capacity, needlessly using power and reducing their operating lives, except when they need to. Highly specialised software automatically ramps them up and down at specific stages in the manufacturing process.
In the ten years since we opened our Slough factory, the speed of clean tech innovation has accelerated faster than ever. When we moved in, we installed the most energy-efficient lighting available at the time. Today, we’re replacing it with ‘intelligent’ LED lighting with sensors that run on 150-watt bulbs instead of 500-watt ones, and automatically adjust to changes natural light and the presence of people. It’s a work in progress, but on top of reducing our carbon footprint, our reduced energy bills will pay us back the investment made in the project within a year.
We’re always looking for ways to minimise waste, but out of the waste we do produce, 100 percent of it is recycled. As a bulk manufacturer of pure sugars, we aim to supply our syrups and liquid sugars where possible using road tankers, minimising packaging waste. Product that’s palletised is continuously reviewed to reduce the packaging per pallet, helping to lower its CO2 footprint.
In July 2021, we invested in a baler to recycle our polypropylene bags, turning them into a durable material that can make anything from new bags to car bumpers. We can store the polypropylene bale much more easily, saving us both floor space and money: at healthy market rates per tonne, the bales we produce and sell to recycling companies means the baler paid for itself within a year.
What’s happening next?
Right now, we’re looking forward to our next big upgrade: replacing our burners at the end of the year, which will save us money and reduce our emissions. We’ve just replaced the stretch wrap we use to store our crystalline sugars with a partial blend utilising a by-product called ‘Tall Oil’ from wood pump manufacturing. It’s a bit more expensive, but for us, it’s worth it.
And, because optimising storage space on our logistics partners’ lorries means fewer road miles, we’ve redesigned our storage bags to be more compact. That means more bags on the trucks and more space – and more efficiency – in our factory. Lots of little steps means progress on our route to more sustainable production.
While some of the technology we use to introduce sustainability at Ragus in 2023 would be unrecognisable to our ancestors Charles and John in 1885, their drive to make the most of what they had and innovate new ideas is timeless. When they used a by-product of the sugar refining process to make a much-loved teatime staple that has remained the same for well over a century, they were using the same ingenuity and determination that we do today.
Joining Ragus in 2017, Henry is the fifth generation of the Eastick family to work in the business. He has worked across our company, implementing plant and technology improvements in the factory to working in the lab developing a knowledge for our products. He focuses on our raw materials procurement as well as leading our digital transformation, adapting new technology and plant to meet our needs. His deep interest in nature and sustainability makes him a dedicated and passionate CSR manager.