This post was originally published in the August/September issue of Sugar Producer magazine.

Throughout history, civilization has turned to sugar when celebrating life’s big moments. And it’s time we return the favor. Join the Sugar Association and our member companies in celebrating the first ever National Real Sugar Day on October 14, 2022.

Finally giving the millennia-old ingredient the recognition it deserves

Sugar is one of the world’s oldest documented commodities and has been used by people all over the globe for thousands of years, with the earliest records of domestication of sugar cane dating back to 8000 BC in Papua New Guinea where the indigenous people chewed it raw. From there, it spread across the globe. It was crystallized in India for the first time around 350 CE. In 1747, sugar was identified in beet roots, giving us the second crop from which real sugar is extracted today.

Sugar cane was brought to Louisiana in 1751 and is now grown in three states: Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. Sugar beets arrived in the U.S. in 1838 and are grown in 11 states today: California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. Real sugar grows from coast to coast and border to border of the United States!

While it was once so valuable that people kept it locked in a sugar safe, advancements in extracting sugar from plants have made this versatile ingredient available to everyone. Sugar beet and sugar cane yields continue to improve with modern varieties of the plants and advances in agricultural technology. These developments have played a crucial role in making the U.S. sugar industry a leader in this global industry.

Today in the United States, the sugar industry is comprised of11,000 beet and cane farmers who produce about 9 million tons of sugar each year. The industry creates more than 151,000 jobs in more than 24 states, adding $23.3 billion to the U.S. economy.

Now that’s something to celebrate!

An opportunity to educate consumers about sugar

In a March 2021 survey, 1,500 U.S. consumers were asked to name any ingredients that come to mind that make food or beverages enjoyable to eat or drink. Compiling all the answers to this open-ended question, sugar was listed most frequently. This makes sense, because not only does real sugar provide foods with sweetness and flavor, but it also contributes to aroma, color, and texture, increases shelf-life, and feeds the yeast that makes bread rise.

On the flip side, while people say it is their favorite ingredient, only 54 percent of people in 2021 agreed that table sugar was a naturally occurring sugar meaning 46 percent still don’t know that real sugar comes from plants. There is a lot of opportunity for the industry to make progress on increasing awareness around who we are and the products we produce.

With our industry story in hand, real sugar deserves to be the center of attention on Oct. 14, National Real Sugar Day.

Make your voice heard on National Real Sugar Day

So why National Real Sugar Day now? This day provides a platform in which to share our pride in working for an industry that provides food, jobs, and joy to so many. It’s a day to take our collective voice and highlight how real sugar comes from sugar beets and sugar cane grown on family farms across the country. And it’s an opportunity to remind people that despite claims to the contrary, there is room for real sugar as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

The Sugar Association is working with our industry members on ways to promote National Real Sugar Day. Contact us or follow us on social media @moretosugar to get involved. We’ll be using #NationalRealSugarDay leading up to and on the day of, so follow along for updates!

Here are a few ways you can celebrate National Real Sugar Day. Use #NationalRealSugarDay and tag @moretosugar when sharing on social media.

About the Author

Courtney Gaine, Ph.D., R.D., is the President and CEO for the Sugar Association in Washington, D.C. Prior to this appointment in January 2016, Dr. Gaine served as the Vice President of Scientific Affairs at the association. Dr. Gaine previously served as senior science program manager at the North American branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI North America), a public, nonprofit scientific foundation that advances the understanding and application of science related to the nutritional quality and safety of the food supply. Prior to ILSI, Dr. Gaine held positions of project director, nutrition and wellness, at the nonprofit organization Convergence and science manager at FoodMinds, a public relations firm. She began her career in academia as an assistant professor at East Carolina University. A native Washingtonian, Dr. Gaine obtained her Ph.D. in nutritional sciences and biochemistry and bachelor’s degree in dietetics from the University of Connecticut, where she was also a co-captain of the UConn women’s basketball team.

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