Beet sugar is a sugar by-product extracted from the sugar beet, commonly used in commercial baking.

Beet Sugar

Also known as Beta vulgaris


What is Beet Sugar?

Beet sugar is the sugar by-product extracted from the sugar beet (Beta vulgaris) and is a common sucrose source used in commercial baking, in the form of granulated, powdered, and brown sugars. These varieties are created during processing through adjustments in:

  • Crystallization
  • Drying
  • The addition of molasses

Sugar selection is determined by the desired end product since different sugar sizes may play a role in baked goods’ appearance or taste. Some refining by-products may be used as an ingredient to add fiber content to prepared foods such as cereals.

Origin

Sugar beets are grown in throughout North America. All sugar from beets are GMO, unless otherwise stated.1 Unlike sugar cane, beet sugar is refined in a single processing facility. Most non-sugar by-products from refining are re-used or recycled. Some of these by-products may be used as ingredients in commercial foods. The beet pulp, for example, is commonly used for animal feed.2

The sugar beets’s origins can be traced to a beet species used for fodder across German Silesia. Sugar was first extracted from the root in 1747. The Napoleonic wars stimulated further research into genetics and the refining process since cane sugar shipments to the continent were blocked by British troops.3

The first commercial refining facility in the United States opened in 1879. There were 91 factories in 18 states by 1917. Today, of the roughly 4.5 million tons of sugar produced annually in the United States, about 54 percent is beet sugar U.S.3,4

During processing, beets are first washed, shredded, and sent through a diffuser. A combination of hot water and pressure forces the sugar out of the beet shreds. The resulting liquid is purified and evaporated to produce an extremely viscous sugar syrup, which undergoes crystallization to produce the sugar granules. The remaining “mother” liquid may be concentrated and crystallized again. A series of subsequent processes further clarify the compound before one final crystallization process is used to create pure, white sugar. Sugar crystal sizes can be changed during the boiling process; in fact, a variety of granule sizes are desired by commercial producers to meet specific baking requirements.5,6

There are three or four different grades of sugar. The top tier sugar is roughly 99 percent pure sucrose. The third and fourth grades contain some impurities and will typically be yellow or dark. These are also known as partially-refined sugar.6

Function

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