Sugar Industry | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Sugar Industry

Sugar Industry, a sector of Canada's FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRIES composed of companies that make cane, beet and invert sugars, sucrose syrup, molasses and beet pulp.

Sugar Industry

Sugar Industry, a sector of Canada's FOOD AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRIES composed of companies that make cane, beet and invert sugars, sucrose syrup, molasses and beet pulp. The Canadian sugar-refining industry (excluding the MAPLE-SUGAR segment) began in the early 1850s with the establishment of a cane sugar-refining company in Montréal. By the early 1900s there were refining operations in Halifax, NS; Saint John, NB; Toronto, Ont; and Vancouver, BC. All of these operations produced refined sugar from imported raw sugar, extracted from tropical sugarcane plants. Another important source of Canadian sugar has been domestically grown sugar beets. The first refinery in Canada designed to extract sugar from beets, La Compagnie de sucre de betterave de Québec, was established in Farnham, Qué, in 1881. Two more Québec-based beet refineries started in the same year. By 1902 there were 4 sugar-beet manufacturing plants in operation in Ontario; in 1903 the Knight Sugar Company was established in Alberta. At present, no beet sugar is produced in Ontario; all Canadian production comes from plants situated in Québec, Manitoba and Alberta.

The latest sweetening agent, high-fructose corn syrup or sweetener (HFCS), is increasingly important. This product is already used in SOFT-DRINK production and some CONFECTIONERY products, and many more food products will use it in future. Two large HFCS production facilities were in operation in Ontario in 1982; a third began production in 1983. At present, only 5% of the sweetener demand in Canada is supplied by HFCS.

The traditional profile of the sweetener industry was also changed in 1982 when the Health Protection Branch of Health and Welfare Canada (now HEALTH CANADA) approved the use of "aspartame" in Canadian foods. This artificial sweetener, which adds no calories, was immediately used for diet soft drinks and, within a year, appeared in at least 8% of the industry's total beverage output. Industry executives feel that aspartame will eventually be used in some 20% of Canadian soft-drink production and, increasingly, in diet or low-calorie food products (eg, processed fruits, fruit fillings, etc).

Most countries that produce or use sugar, including Canada, are signatories to the International Sugar Agreement (ISA), which aims to prevent extremes in world sugar prices, and thus aims to protect the interests of both cane-producing countries and consumers of raw sugar. In Canada the industry is regulated by several federal agencies, including Agriculture Canada and Consumer and Corporate Affairs. The industry is represented by the Canadian Sugar Institute in Toronto; members include all Canadian refining companies.

In recent years, annual production of refined sugar from raw sugarcane has averaged about 0.9-1.0 billion kg and production of refined sugar from Canadian-grown sugar beets has fluctuated between 90-135 million kg. Nine sugar-refining establishments now operate in Canada (excluding HFCS facilities): NB has 1; Qué, 3; Ont, 2; Man, 1; Alta, 1; and BC, 1. This number has decreased since 1980.

The sugar-refining industry employed 1500 in 1985, down from 1800 in 1980; and spent $249 million in 1985, down from $641 million in 1980, for materials and supplies. The extremely volatile nature of international raw-sugar prices accounts for the radical cost fluctuation. The international situation also drastically influences the annual value of the refining industry's shipments, which from 1975 to 1985 ranged from $437 million to $859 million. In 1985 the value of shipments was $454 million.