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The Sugar Process

The following information shows how the sugar beet becomes beet sugar; factories may vary slightly, but the process is basically the same.

The process involved in the production of sugar from sugarbeets is not truly a manufacturing process. Sugar (sucrose) is actually manufactured by the sugarbeet from sunlight, water, and nutrients in the soil. The sugar is stored within its root at a concentration averaging from 10 to 20 percent, depending upon the variety of beet planted and the weather conditions experienced while growing.

The manufacturing processes involved at our factory in southern Minnesota are really just a series of physical and chemical separations. They are almost all continuous processes designed to extract the sucrose already manufactured by the sugarbeet from the other soluble and insoluble materials produced by the beet during its growth cycle and from the weeds, dirt, and beet tops left adhering to the beets from their harvest. The efficiency of the process, measured in percent recovery, is calculated as the amount of granulated white sugar produced from that sugar originally contained in the beet when it was delivered. A similar term, percent extraction, is calculated in the same way as recovery, except that the reference point is the sugar content in the beets as processed. The difference between the two numbers, allowing for the sugar lost during storage of the beets in the storage piles prior to processing, is called sugar “shrink”. Factories that must store beets for protracted lengths of time, sometimes as much as 180 days, often experience a high shrink, thus their percent recovery is often significantly lower than their percent extraction.

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