What is Sucrose Made Of?

  • Sucrose, more commonly known as table sugar, comes from two different plants: sugar cane and sugar beets. These plants are grown all over the world. The type of sugar-producing plant grown depends on the climate. After they are harvested, the sugar cane and sugar beets are processed to remove the sugar.

Sugar Cane

  • Sucrose is the natural sugar that occurs in plants. When it is grown to be sold as table sugar, it only comes from sugar beets and sugar cane.

    Sugar cane is a tropical grass. It requires full sun and a lot of water to grow and thrive. There are several different species of sugar cane plants, some of which can grow to more than 16 feet tall. The sugar cane takes one year to grow. If the stalk is cut so that it doesn't upset the root of the plant, it will regrow in another year.

    A sugar cane plant has a stalk that looks like bamboo. The stalk is where the sucrose is stored. Approximately 10 percent of the weight of each stalk is actually sugar. You can expect to harvest about 10 tons of sugar per hectare.

Sugar Beets

  • Sugar beets are grown in more temperate climates. Sugar beets are a root crop that looks like a parsnip. These are biennial plants that produce sugar during the winter of their first year so they are planted in the spring and harvested in the winter. The second year of their life cycle they produce flowers and seeds.

    Sugar beets come in many different varieties. The sugar is stored in the root of the sugar beet. While the beets produce approximately 17 percent of their weight as sugar, they only produce about seven tons of sugar per hectare.


  • Extracting the sugar from the sugar cane is a five-step process. The cane is first pressed to release the juice that contains the sugar. The juice is then boiled until the sugar begins to crystallize. From there, the sugar is spun in a centrifuge to remove the syrup; this leaves impure raw sugar. The sugar is then sent to a refinery that removes any impurities. At this point, the sugar is crystallized, dried and packaged.

    Sugar beets are washed, sliced and soaked in hot water to remove the juice that contains the sugar. Then the sugar juice is purified, filtered and concentrated in a process similar to that of the sugar cane.

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