where sugar

comes from

PRODUCING SUGAR where sugar comes from

what is sugar 

and where it is found

PRODUCING SUGAR where sugar comes from

what is sugar?

Sugar is a natural ingredient that has been in our diet for thousands of years.

We produce sugar (sucrose), which is made up from glucose and fructose, and extracted from sugar cane or sugar beet and often used during processing or cooking. Sucrose is also naturally present in most fruits and vegetables. 

Different sugars have different properties (structure, texture, flavour, sweetness and preservative) but the property of each sugar is the same, whether they are naturally present in food and drink or used in preparation.

Sugars are carbohydrates that provide energy for our bodies. The most common sugar in the body is glucose which our brain, major organs and muscles need to function properly.

the sugar we use at home is produced from sugar beet and sugar cane

sugar has four calories per gram

different types of sugar

The most common ‘sugars’ found in foods and drinks are glucose and fructose, sucrose (often known as table sugar), lactose and maltose. 



Fructose and glucose are found in fruits, vegetables and honey



Sucrose, or 'table sugar', is extracted from sugar beet and sugar cane, and is naturally present in fruit and vegetables



Maltose, or 'malt sugar' is found in malted drinks and beer



Lactose, or 'milk sugar', is found in milk and dairy products

sugars in your kitchen

There are different sugars you will find to buy for your kitchen cupboard. They are all forms of sucrose and include:

  • Granulated sugar - a general-purpose sugar for cooking
  • Caster sugar - a finer sugar often used in baking
  • Icing sugar - ideal for dusting cakes and making butter icing
  • Demerara - a coarse brown sugar that works well in crumble toppings
  • Light brown sugar - often used in fruit cakes and puddings
  • Muscovado - a dark, treacle flavour used in gingerbread.


To find out more about sugar and the role it can play as part of a healthy balanced diet, visit our Making Sense of Sugar website. 

brief history of sugar

Sugar was first used over 5,000 years ago, when the Polynesians discovered that sugar-cane stalks contained a sweet liquid. Over the centuries that followed, their discovery slowly spread around the world. The method of turning raw sugar into white crystals was invented in India, but perfected by the Moors. 

In 1493, Columbus took sugar cane to the West Indies, where it flourished and then expanded to different locations worldwide.

Cane sugar continued to be the main source of sugar in Europe until the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815). During this period port blockades prevented goods from being imported. The farming of sugar beet was then developed in Europe in order to replace cane sugar. Once it was found the crop grew well in cooler climates, sugar from beet began to rival sugar from cane and gradually replaced cane as the main source of European sugar. 

Over 100 countries around the world produce a total of 180 million tonnes of sugar annually, of which around one-third is sold internationally. Brazil is the largest producer and exporter, with around 55-60% of world raw sugar exports.

sugar was



years ago

sugar from beet

became the main

source of sugar

in Europe

around 180

million tonnes

of sugar is 

produced globally 

each year

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