Types of Sugar

All green plants produce sugar (sucrose) through photosynthesis. Table sugar is obtained from sugar cane and sugar beets due to their high sucrose content. Whether produced from cane or beet, the result is the same: pure sucrose. The process of extracting and purifying sugars from sugar cane and sugar beet allows for the production of a large variety of sugars.

  • Sugar. This includes granulated sugar, coarse sugar, superfine sugar, pearl sugar, liquid sugar, and liquid invert sugar. 
  • Specialty Sugars. This includes brown sugar, icing sugar, Demerara-style sugar, Muscovado sugar, Turbinado-style sugar, organic sugar, golden syrup, and molasses. 
  • Other Sugars. This includes raw sugar and evaporated cane juice.

Purification creates sugar, brown sugars, molasses


Canada's Food and Drug Regulations Division 18 requires that "sugar" meets the standard of at least 99.8% pure sucrose. The purification process can produce different crystal sizes, as well as liquid sugars. These characteristics allow sugar to perform variety of functions in food products, in addition to providing a sweet taste.

The following table lists different types of sugars and sugar-based products. Alternative names provided may not be commonly used in Canada.

Type of Sugar Description May Also be Called Typical Uses
Granulated sugar

granulated sugar

Naturally white, pure sucrose

The most common form of refined sugar

Refined sugar


Table sugar

White sugar

General household use (tea, coffee, home recipes)

Performs a variety of functions when added to breads, baked goods, frozen dairy products, jams/jellies, candies, packaged foods

Coarse sugar

coarse sugar

Granulated sugar having a larger crystal size

Highly resistant to colour change and breakdown (into glucose and fructose) at high temperatures

  Used in making fondants, confections and liquors
Superfine sugar

superfine sugar

Crystal size is the finest of all the types of granulated sugar

Bar sugar

Berry sugar

Castor sugar

Extra fine sugar

Fruit sugar

Instant dissolving sugar

Ultrafine sugar

Excellent for sprinkling over fruit or cereals, or in creamed mixtures, meringues and baking

Used commercially in powdered preparations, in the preservation of fruits, and dissolves easily in cold beverages

Pearl sugar

pearl sugar

Lumps of refined sugar particles

Decorative sugar

Sanding sugar

Used mainly in the baking and confectionery industries to sprinkle on top of baked goods
Liquid sugar

liquid sugar

Granulated white sugar dissolved in water

Liquid sucrose

Sucrose syrups

Used commercially in beverages, jams, candy, ice cream, syrups, and cooked fondants (i.e. fudge)

Not available for purchase by consumers

Liquid invert sugar

liquid invert sugar

Mixture of glucose and fructose when sucrose is broken down in solution  

Used commercially, primarily in soft drinks

Also used in confectionery, canning and baking

Not available for purchase by consumers

Specialty Sugars

Type of Sugar Description May Also be Called Typical Uses
Brown sugars

Brown sugar

White moist granulated sugar blended with small quantities of pure sugar syrups (molasses) that are selected for colour and taste

Colour ranges from a light yellow to dark brown

The differences in colour and flavour between different brown sugars depend on the amount of molasses present - the more molasses, the stickier the crystals, darker the colour and stronger the flavour

Sugar refiners can produce brown sugar from boiling refinery cane syrups until brown sugar crystals form, or by blending molasses syrup with white sugar crystals

Brilliant yellow sugar

Dark brown sugar

Golden yellow sugar

Light yellow sugar

Soft sugar

Yellow sugar

Used in baked goods, dry mixes, meat glazes, and condiments
Icing sugar

icing sugar

Finely ground (powdered) granulated sugar, which contains approximately 3% cornstarch (gluten-free), an anti-caking agent to prevent clumping

Confectioner's sugar

Fondant sugar

Fondant icing sugar

Powdered sugar

Pure icing sugar

Super icing sugar 

Used in special glazes, icings for cakes and doughnuts, and some sweet pastries
Demerara-style sugar

demerara-style sugar

A specialty light brown sugar, with large golden crystals that are slightly sticky due to a molasses coating Brown sugar

Used as a specialty item for household baked goods

Often used in tea, coffee, or on top of hot cereals 

Muscovado sugar

muscovado sugar

Made by crystallization of dark syrups (similar to Demerara-style)

Crystals are slightly coarser and stickier in texture than regular brown sugar

Produced at an early stage of the refining process where not all plant pigments and flavours are removed

Colour ranges from light to dark brown and has a strong molasses taste

Barbados sugar Specialty product used on cereal, in puddings and fruit cakes, in marinades and sauces, or in coffee and tea
Turbinado-style sugar

turbinado-style sugar

A semi-refined specialty brown sugar that has been partially purified (double washed) for human consumption

Molasses coating gives it a golden colour and mild caramel taste

Often found under the brand names "Plantation sugar" or "Sugar in the Raw"

Used for hot beverages

Can be used as a finishing touch for cookies, pastries, and cobblers

Often found in restaurants and specialty shops 

Organic sugar

organic sugar

Grown where sustainable agriculture is practiced, for example crop rotation, effective soil rotation, effective soil conversation, and natural biological pest control (no pesticides or artificial fertilizers)

Made from cane syrups that are filtered and cleaned using only natural herbal extracts and vegetable purifiers

  Used in place of granulated white sugar, for example, in cooking or baking, on cereal, and in coffee, tea and other beverages
Golden syrup

golden syrup

Golden-coloured syrup containing sucrose and invert sugar (sucrose broken down into its two component sugars, glucose and fructose)

Made from selected blended refinery cane syrups, which are thickened by evaporation

Refiner's syrup

Refined sugar syrup

Used in recipes as a syrup topping


Dark coloured syrup that is a by-product of the sugar cane and sugar beet refining processes

Generally, molasses from refineries requires further processing to meet the food grade standard to be packaged and sold in the grocery store

Table or Fancy molasses

Refiner's or Blackstrap or Cooking molasses

Baking, yeast production

Rum or other alcohol production as a fermentable carbohydrate

Other Sugars

Type of Sugar Description May Also be Called Typical Uses
Raw Sugar

Raw sugar

In Canada, “raw sugar” refers to the partially purified cane sugar shipped here for further refining. It looks like soft brown sugar but contains impurities that require it to be refined in order to meet Canadian standards for health and hygiene Not to be confused with so-called "raw sugar" or "sugar in the raw" packaged and sold in stores, which are types of specialty sugar, such as turbinado This product is not sold to consumers
Evaporated Cane Juice

evaporated cane juice

Misleading term to describe lightly golden, granulated cane sugar with a slight molasses flavour

Processed from milled sugar cane through a single-crystallization process

Cane sugar

Turbinado sugar

Organic cane sugar

See: US FDA Guidance that the ingredient should be declared on food labels as a sugar using more truthful non-misleading descriptors

Used as a sweetening agent similar to light brown sugar, turbinado sugar and other specialty sugars that retain more molasses

Used in baked goods, on top of hot cereal, and to sweeten beverages, smoothies, or plain yogurt