How Well Do You Know Sugar?

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Only one in three consumers know that sugar comes from plants. It’s not that they don’t believe it, many have just never thought about it. We have learned that while there may be a lot of chatter about sugar, there are still a lot of facts about sugar that consumers are unclear about. We’ve jotted down a few things we think are important to share.

Real sugar comes from sugar beet and sugar cane plants

Real sugar is grown and harvested by sugar beet and sugar cane farmers. The same pure sugar found naturally in the plant is what ends up in your pantry. While all green plants make sugar through photosynthesis, sugar beet and sugar cane produce the greatest quantities, making these plants the most efficient choices from which to extract the sugar. 

Sugar may be sweet, but it does so much more 

Sugar is the gold standard for sweetness, but its other functions in food are just as important and certainly not as well known.  Sugar balances acidity, prevents spoilage, allows yeast to do its work and much more. Sugar is often used in recipes for reasons that have little to do with its sweet flavor, playing an essential role in the way foods look, last and taste. Check out this chart to see all the functions.

There is only one sugar.

Because of the many functional roles sugar can play in a product, reducing sugar often isn’t as simple as just cutting the sugar in the recipe. There is no single ingredient that can replace sugar’s flavor and function. For example, sugar may be added to a cereal to mask the bitter taste of fiber or added vitamins, increase bulk and lengthen the shelf life. If you reduce or take out some sugar, several ingredients will need to be added to replace all of these functions. 

But, there are a lot of sugar substitutes.

Navigating the growing number of sweeteners found in food and drinks can be hard. 

With current interest in lowering added sugars, many products are cutting back on sugar and putting new ingredients in, including the many different alternative sweeteners. These sweeteners can be hard to identify in foods because consumers must be familiar with their names and know to look for them on the ingredient list. Knowing where they come from and how they are produced is important to making informed choices about products—just like it is important to know where sugar comes from.

Find more resources regarding real sugar and other sweeteners for customers at

The Sugar Association is the scientific voice of the sugar industry, aiming to increase consumer understanding of sugar by providing science-based information and also supporting scientific research. We represent sugar beet and sugar cane growers and processors, working together to tell real sugar’s story.  


This post is sponsored by Sugar Association, Inc.


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