Nothing like the real thing. It needs no introduction. We call it simply "sugar," regular sugar, or table sugar, but it is labeled as granulated. Sugar is considered the gold standard of sweet taste with a clean, pleasant sweetness from start to finish, that hits quickly without lingering, showing no secondary taste or aftertaste. Being the favorite sweetener among all, we tend to dislike any sugar substitute that doesn't match sugar's sweetness profile.
In this post, I write about the essential characteristics of granulated sugar. We all know that if we add more sugar to our food, it will taste sweeter, but why is it so difficult to substitute it? What are the advantages of granulated sugar? And why do we love it so much?
Is it Cane Sugar? Beet Sugar? A Blend?
Granulated sugar is made from either sugar cane or sugar beet, but blends of both are common because many sugar producers don't sell directly to consumers. They have their products sold and distributed by sugar marketing organizations, which may blend beet and cane sugars, based on price and availability.
I am often asked: "Does the brand of sugar matter?" To most people — regardless of whether it is from cane, beet, or a blend — any brand of granulated white sugar looks, tastes, smells, and performs the same way in the kitchen. Read more about it on a previous post: Cane vs. Beet Sugar: A Difference?
Sucrose: The Scientific Name
Granulated sugar is one of the purest food products. Chemically speaking, it is about 99.95 percent sucrose, regardless of whether it is made from sugar cane or sugar beet. The remaining 0.05 percent is mostly water plus a minuscule amount of impurities. Sucrose is a double sugar made up of two single sugars – glucose (50 percent) and fructose (50 percent) – connected by an oxygen bond.
Crystal Size of White Sugars
As discussed in a previous post titled "20+ Types of Refined Sugar from Cane and Beet in Stores", the refining process results in white sugar going out as the final product and impurities accumulating in thick dark syrups, aka molasses or refiners syrup, which are separated by centrifugation.
Most sugar producers and distributors call granulated white sugar the type of refined sugar with an average crystal size ranging from 0.3 to 0.55 mm. Granulated sugar is typically the starting point for the production of other white sugars and brown sugars. Fine crystals are made by grinding granulated sugar and then passing them through specifically sized screens. The crystal size affects how sugar dissolves and so, fine crystals are promoted for baking needs because it mixes well and dissolves faster than mid-size crystals due to their high surface area.
A variety of white sugars come out of sugar factories and refineries with average crystals size ranging from coarse (0.75–0.6 mm) to medium (0.5–0.3 mm), to small-size (0.3–0.02 mm). From largest to smallest, it includes: sparkling > sanding > granulated > fine > extra fine > superfine > ultrafine > powdered 6X > powdered 10X > powdered 12X > fondant.
Top Brands of Granulated Sugar
The top granulated sugars are the store brands including Great Value (Walmart), Market Pantry and Good & Gather (Target), Roundy's and Smidge & Spoon (Kroger), Nice (Walgreens), 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods), Happy Belly (Amazon), First Street (Smart & Final), Wegman's, Publix, and many others.
Two well-known brands of granulated sugar in the U.S. include Domino on the East Coast and C&H on the West Coast. Both are cane sugars. The owner of the brands, American Sugar Refining or ASR Group, is one of the largest cane sugar producers in the country. Domino and C&H sugars come out of four refineries in California, Louisiana, Maryland, and New York. Domino Chalmette Refinery, located just outside New Orleans, is the largest refinery in the country. Learn more here: About Domino Granulated Sugar / About C&H Granulated Sugar
Imperial Sugar and Dixie Crystals are sister brands that sell essentially the same cane sugars. The brands are owned by Imperial Sugar Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Louis Dreyfus Commodities. Louis Dreyfus is based in The Netherlands and is one of the top three sugar marketer worldwide. Imperial sugars are produced in a refinery located in Georgia.
Crystal Sugar is a brand owned by United Sugars Corp (United), which is the nation’s second–largest marketer of refined sugar. It provides beet and cane sugars, distributing almost 25% of the country's total refined sugar. United is a cooperative owned by 3 producers: American Crystal (beet sugar), Minn-Dak Farmers Coop (beet sugar), and US Sugar Corp. (cane sugar).
Café Delight brand is owned by Cargill, another leading marketer of refined sugar. It sells and distributes cane and beet sugars from the U.S. and Mexico, representing the following sugar producers: Louisiana Sugar Refining (cane sugar), Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Coop, Spreckels Sugar Co. (beet sugar), Wyoming Sugar Co. (beet sugar), Zucarmex (cane sugar from Mexico), and other producers from Mexico.
Widely available brand names include N'JOY (owned by Sugar Foods Corporation), Community Coffee, Genuine Joe, Shrurfine, and Essential Everyday.