Canadian Sugar Today

With refining operations in four provinces, the Canadian sugar industry continues to provide Canadian consumers and industrial customers with a reliable supply of high quality, competitively refined sugar.

Canada produces approximately 1.4 million tonnes of refined sugar annually. Approximately 92% is refined from raw cane sugar imported in bulk to cane sugar refining operations in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. The balance is refined beet sugar processed from domestically grown sugar beets in Alberta. Whether produced from cane or beet, the refined sugar is the same - pure sucrose.

The industry directly employs approximately 1,000 full-time workers and supports approximately 240 Alberta sugar beet growers, plus numerous field workers during spring planting and fall harvest. The industry indirectly supports many diverse sectors of the economy such as agriculture, packaging, energy, natural resources, industrial machinery, and transportation. It plays a critical role as an integral and valuable part of the Canadian food processing industry. Over 85 percent of Canada’s refined sugar production is used by Canadian industrial users. The industry’s reliable supply of high quality, low-priced sugar supports a competitive and secure food processing industry in Canada.

Per capita sugar consumption in Canada remains relatively flat, so the Canadian sugar industry relies on Canadian population growth and growing demands of food processors who are expanding their production in Canada. Canadian refined sugar has been a significant factor driving investment and export growth in sugar-containing food product manufacturing.

While Canadian refined sugar companies have actively pursued export markets, success has been extremely limited because foreign trade barriers continue to limit refined sugar export. 

Refined sugar is produced in several forms for both retail and industrial customers. Sugar is available in three main product categories: white granulated sugar, liquid sugar and specialty sugars. There are more than 80 different types of sugar and package sizes offered to meet the needs of both consumers and food processors.

Retail and Industrial Uses of Sugar
food manufacturing / food service 0.88
retail packaged 0.12
Variety of Refined Sugar Products

Granulated sugar is the most common form of sugar used in households and commercially. Canadian Food and Drug Regulations require a minimum purity of 99.8% sucrose, but all refined granulated sugar produced in Canada exceeds 99.9%. Granulated sugar is produced in various crystal sizes and is usually packaged in 2, 4 and 10 kg packages for home use; in individual envelopes for food service; and in 20 and 40 kg bags, 1 tonne tote bags or bulk for food manufacturers. Liquid sugar and liquid invert sugar are water/sugar mixtures preferred by some food manufacturers including soft drink bottlers and confectioners. Specialty sugars include icing sugar, brown sugar or yellow sugar, demerara sugar, and a number of other sugar products to suit varying consumer and industrial needs.

Where does our sugar come from?

Cane sugar - The growing of sugar cane in Canada is impossible because of the climate, so the majority of Canadian refined sugar is produced from raw cane sugar imported from tropical regions in South and Central America. The raw sugar is transported by ship in bulk cargo to refineries located at deep water ports in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. Here it is refined to separate the pure sugar crystals from molasses, plant residue and impurities.

Beet sugar - Sugar in Canada is also produced from sugar beets grown in Alberta. The white sugar beet is from the same family as the vegetable beetroot but contains a high concentration of sugar (sucrose) – 15 – 20% by weight. The sugar beets are harvested in the fall, and then processed to extract the sugar and separate it from the fibre, water and other non-sugar materials. Major by-products include molasses and beet pulp, which is used to produce a highly nutritious animal feed.