Sugar Talk Sugar Talk Sugar talk logo

End-to-end visibility, traceability and transparency in the sugar supply chain essential,

Sweetening the supply chain: enhancing visibility, accountability and traceability in sugar manufacturing

31/08/2023 By Ibrahim Belo in What we do Sourcing, Supply chain

The sugar manufacturing industry’s significance in the global market makes end-to-end visibility, traceability and transparency in the sugar supply chain essential, particularly as its use extends beyond traditional food and beverage manufacturing into biofuels and other applications. For Ragus, visibility, traceability and transparency of our pure sugars are important to minimise risk, comply with regulations, and achieve the highest product quality for our customers. In this blog, we highlight the value of visibility and traceability in the sugar industry and what it means for businesses and consumers.

Technology underpins modern sugar production, with constant monitoring to ensure quality.

The benefits and challenges of achieving visibility in the sugar industry

Supply chain visibility gives a clear overview of every touchpoint along the supply chain. For Ragus, this journey starts from growing and sourcing, continues through the sugar manufacturing process and ends with our deliveries at our customers’ factories and breweries. This visibility is beneficial in many ways. It allows us to ensure a sustainable supply of quality sugar to our customers. We can also plan for, manage and limit disruption across our supply chain while working with our suppliers to reduce risk and meet consumer demand.

In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic, energy crises, an economic downturn, extreme weather events, logistics and distribution issues and even war have all disrupted the food industry and made it harder to guarantee continuity of supply and a timely delivery. By having visibility, which can now be enhanced through technology such as internet of things (IoT) traceability, these challenges can be better managed. Factories that use batch processes, such as the advanced Ragus facility, can have full visibility of supply from the refinery to the food and beverage manufacturer’s final product.

Traceability in the sugar industry

Traceability spans the entire sugar sourcing, manufacturing and distribution process, starting from when the sugarcane or beet is harvested and ending when the sugar is delivered to its final destination. Traceability is crucial to meet compliance and quality standards and to ensure product safety. With traceability in place, Ragus can track, document and, importantly, demonstrate adherence to all the ethical, quality and compliance standards that apply.

Ragus understands the importance of supplier visits to ensure traceability.

Ragus understands the importance of sugarcane and sugar beet producer visits to ensure quality and traceability.

But we can also enable our customers to satisfy the demands of their consumers. More than ever, consumers want to know about the ingredients that go into the food they eat and the beverages they drink, where the ingredients came from and how they were sourced. For food and beverage businesses, that means demonstrating that they source their products ethically and sustainably. An ethical supply chain means everyone involved is paid fairly for the work they do, land is managed sustainably and workers’ human rights are protected.

Technology is being used in innovative ways to help businesses achieve and demonstrate traceability to consumers. Agriculture company Fresh Del Monte is using QR codes and blockchain technology to do this. By scanning a QR code on a product’s label, the consumer or distributor can view that product’s complete record and information. Meanwhile, Unilever partnered with SAP and its GreenToken blockchain solution to enhance traceability in Unilever’s global palm oil supply chain. This solution allows the business to demonstrate how much of the palm oil product comes from a sustainable source at a time when the origins of palm oil and the environmental impact of production methods are of great concern to consumers globally.

The environmental impact of sugar production

Sugar cultivation and processing can impact the environment in many ways, from loss of habitat due to continual deforestation making space for cane growing to water pollution caused by the production of sugar and of alcohol from cane or beet.

And counter-intuitively, allowing sugar plantations to rewild without management is not improving natural habitats, or helping local populations. Much of the global sugar cane estate has been in place for many decades, in some cases centuries, and support the land and local livelihoods. Where the cane fields have been replaced with, for example golf ranges in places like Barbados, it has disrupted the local ecosystem and hydrology. In countries like Cuba, where the industry has been allowed to decline, untended former sugarcane fields left to re-wilding have not improved habitats or the population’s well-being.

The sugar industry is taking steps to minimise the contemporary impact on the environment and improve sustainability in sugar production. For example, through lowering emissions during transportation, using ethical trade service providers like SEDEX to check sustainability across the supply chain, and consuming less electricity and water in the production process.

Ragus' quality manager visits a beet sugar supplier's factory.

A visit to a beet sugar supplier’s factory, which uses the latest technology to monitor batch quality and ensure traceability as the sugar works through the supply chain.

Sustainability can support transparency in the supply chain, as businesses like Ragus can demonstrate best practice throughout the sourcing, manufacturing and distribution process while maintaining customer confidence in Ragus as a manufacturer.

Supply chain accountability in the sugar industry

A big part of customer confidence is supply chain accountability. This accountability is closely linked with responsible sourcing in the sugar industry. For Ragus, accountability and responsible sourcing is a commitment we make to consider the environmental and social impact of what we and our suppliers do. With many and different types of stakeholders in the sugar supply chain, from growers to retailers, it is vital that every actor is accountable and responsible for improving it.

Driving positive change in the supply chain through technology innovation

The sugar industry is embracing better visibility, traceability, accountability and sustainability, and technology is supporting this. IoT technology is monitoring energy consumption and machine performance to enable optimisation, blockchain technology is recording and storing information to enhance traceability, big data analytics is providing insight into the risks, patterns and trends that occur within sugar production environments, and artificial intelligence (AI) is helping optimise production.  

Blockchain technology can provide a digital audit trail as sugar moves through the supply chain.

Blockchain technology can provide an unbreakable digital audit trail as sugar moves through the supply chain.

Key takeaways

Visibility, traceability and accountability is essential in the sugar industry to meet the expectations of customers and consumers and to remain competitive.

They are also important to minimise risk, comply with regulations, and achieve a high-quality product.

Businesses in the sugar industry that support sustainable and transparent practices, and demand the same from growers, suppliers, retailers and other stakeholders in the supply chain, will become accountable and build a more resilient supply chain.

Ragus ensures visibility and traceability at every stage of the supply chain, from sourcing, through manufacturing to distribution and delivery. To learn more about our pure sugar products, contact our Customer Services Team. For more sugar news and Ragus updates, keep browsing SUGARTALK and follow Ragus on LinkedIn. 

Ibrahim Belo

With a primary responsibility for manufactured product quality control, Ibrahim works within our supplier chain, factory and production laboratory. He has a focus on continuous improvement, implementing and maintaining our technical and quality monitoring processes, ensuring standards and product specifications are met.

View more