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SUGAR, SUGAR / Cane and beet share the same chemistry but act differently in the kitchen

January 1, 2009

The beet versus cane controversy is a new development. Cane was once the dominant sugar in U.S. markets, but within the last few years beet has taken the lead. Beet now accounts for 55 percent of the 10 million tons of refined sugar consumed in the country each year. And, according to Ben Goodwin, executive manager of California Beet Growers Association, the percentage is expected to grow.

One reason is that beet sugar is generally cheaper to produce. It requires just one refining process at a single plant. Traditional cane refining demands two processes at two different facilities.

Beets can also thrive in a wider range of climates. This large, homely root — not anything like a regular beet — is cultivated in 12 states; cane grows in just four. And while total U.S. cane and beet acreage has declined dramatically over the last few years, cane has dropped most precipitously. Hawaii alone has lost more than 60 percent of its cane fields over the last five years — victims of urbanization and conversion to better-paying crops like macadamia nuts and coffee, says Roehl Flores , director of marketing for C & H Cane Sugar Co.

Many in the industry continue to dispute the signifigance of the shift from cane to beet.

“I can’t tell any difference, and I don’t think anyone else can,” says Joseph Terrell, director of public affairs for the American Sugar Alliance, a trade association. “The difference is where it is grown and some of the processing, but once it becomes sugar, there’s no difference.”

via SUGAR, SUGAR / Cane and beet share the same chemistry but act differently in the kitchen.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 7, 2009 2:33 pm

    There is indeed no difference. However, is there a difference in how consumers perceive the quality and overall value between cane and beet?
    In other words, is a yogurt sweetened with cane more appealing than a similar yogurt with beet sugar?

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