What is Sugar?

When the term ‘sugar’ is used, people are referring to sucrose, also known as table sugar, which is produced from sugar beet or sugar cane.

Sugar is present in nature as plants make sugars through photosynthesis. The sugar you put in your coffee or tea is simply water-extracted from sugar beet or sugar cane by sugar manufacturers.

Sugar is a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are the most important fuel for our brains and provide our bodies with the energy our organs need to function.

Sucrose found in a fruit and sucrose used to bake a cake are identical: all have the same calorific values (4 kcal or 17 kJ of energy per gram) and the body does not distinguish between sugars used in manufactured food and drinks or in the home, and those found naturally in foods.

Sugar is more than just sweet; it is a unique ingredient that fulfils a range of functions in food:

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The EU Sugar Sector

In EU-27, sugar beet is grown and processed in 18 Member States by over one hundred factories. This generated a production of almost 19.7 million tonnes of sugar (data 2017). Sugar factories employ over 23.000 jobs in areas where few alternatives exist and support over 360.000 additional jobs along the supply chain, ranging from beet technical and research institutes, machinery manufacturers, seed companies and so on, driving the economies of some of the EU’s most vulnerable rural areas. The EU sugar industry makes a € 3.6 billion direct contribution to EU-27 Gross Domestic Product and of € 15.6 billion indirectly.

The sugar sector is also a highly productive sector with an average labour productivity of €154,300 GVA (gross value added defining the economic contribution) per employee, making it a highly efficient and capital intensive industry, comparable to industries such as the telecommunications sector.

Our high-quality and cost-competitive sugar supports the business of hundreds of thousands of sugar users and sugar beet growers. Furthermore, our factories provide a whole range of beet-derived products in food, feed and many other uses, making sure almost all parts of the beet are used and no waste is generated.

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Following successive reforms and a pro-active approach to increasing productivity, the EU beet sugar sector is now among the most competitive in the world. Since 1990, production costs have increased at a rate well below inflation – a remarkable feat for an industry that is over two hundred years old. Meanwhile, sugar beet yields and sugar production per factory have risen substantially.

How Sugar is Made

Sugar is made from the mechanical extraction of sucrose from sugar beet. The root of the sugar beet contains a high concentration of sucrose.

In the factory, the sugar beet is first sliced into thin strips called cossettes. These thin strips are mixed with hot water to extract the sugar and a lime solution is added to the raw juice to remove any impurities. The syrup is filtered, heated and seeded with tiny sugar crystals, which grow into the required size. The sugar crystals are then washed, dried and cooled.

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A History of European Beet Sugar Production

The work to extract sucrose from sugar beet began at the start of the 17th century by Olivier de Serres, a French agronomist. De Serres met with little success, and it wasn’t until 1745 that the German chemist Sigmund Marggraf became the first to extract and solidify the juice of this plant. Forty years later, in 1802, Franz Karl Achard opened the first experimental beet sugar factory, with such satisfactory results that several more factories were built in Silesia (modern Poland) and Bohemia (Czech Republic).

At the beginning of the 19th century uprisings in the French overseas territories and the Continental System blockade obstructed the import of cane sugar to the European continent. Substitutes to cane sugar were therefore sought. Fruit, honey, grapes, and roots were all tried in turn. The beet sugar factories in Silesia and Bohemia were seized upon in France and elsewhere as the solution to continental Europe’s sugar supply problems. In 1811 Napoleon issued a decree appropriating one million francs for the establishment of sugar schools and compelling farmers to devote a large acreage to sugar beet cultivation the following year.

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When the continental blockade was lifted, cane sugar from the colonies flooded Europe’s markets once more. Faced with this competition a large number of sugar factories were forced to close down. But this setback was only temporary. Men of talent in every country strived to revive the industry and, slowly but surely, beet sugar factories began to re-emerge. The industry progressively strengthened its position on the world market through improved techniques, the construction of large production units, and the careful selection of beet varieties.

Today, the EU beet sugar industry is a modern, high-performance sector that is counted among the most competitive in the world.


Original Sugarmark

Example of other Sugarmark styles authorised by CEFS (subject to conditions)

For the purpose of informing all members and users of the Sugarmark, the following TERMS & CONDITIONS apply as a pre-condition to the legitimate use of the Sugarmark in the EU:

  • CEFS is the sole legitimate trademark right holder of the Sugarmark in all countries of the EU. The trade mark design is protected under CTM (Community Trade Mark) number 000567651 and the Sugarmark is used in several UE countries, notably, but not exclusively, by CEFS members.
  • The Sugarmark can only be used to represent sucrose/saccharose and no other sweetener. The use of the Sugarmark in company stationery, company vehicles, website and other forms of communication should also be consistent with the company’s activities in so far as the Sugarmark can be associated with the latter activities.
  • Sugarmark is a registered Trademark and therefore its design should not be altered or distorted. Any significant change to the original design of the Sugarmark should be authorised by CEFS. Every legitimate user of the Sugarmark will be allowed to use the newly authorised style(s) of the Sugarmark. A simple change in colour of the Sugarmark is not considered to be a significant change and does not need to be notified.
  • Authorised users of the Sugarmark that are not fee-paying members of CEFS will be asked to contribute to the costs of administration of the Sugarmark. Based on the costs of the maintenance of the Community Trademark Registration and internal CEFS administrative work those users will be asked to pay 400€ per year for the use of the Sugarmark. That amount may be updated on an annual basis as required.
  • CEFS may take all necessary actions to prevent the unlawful use of the Sugarmark in the EU. Actions will be decided based on the importance and gravity of the infringement, its territorial scope and damage caused to the reputation of the trademark among other criteria.
  • All authorised users of the Sugarmark -whether members of CEFS or not- are invited to be part of the ‘EU Community of Sugarmark users’. This informal platform will be the forum where to discuss any ideas and proposals regarding the effective and legitimate use of the Sugarmark in the EU now or in the future.