Sugar 101

Where Does Sugar Come From?

Sugar's story starts in the field.

Where in the United States Does Real Sugar Come From?

Sugar, the common name for sucrose, plays a vital role in so many foods and beverages that are part of nutritious, balanced and (not to be forgotten) enjoyable diets. In the U.S., that sugar comes from sugar beets and sugar cane plants grown on farms—and there’s an important reason why.

Many fruits, nuts and vegetables contain sucrose, with some containing as much as 10% sucrose! However, nothing tops sugar beets and sugar cane which contain about 16 and 14%, respectively, making them the most efficient way for farmers to grow and harvest sucrose.


sugar beets

Sugar beets

Sugar beets are a root crop, and they flourish in cooler climates where the soil is rich and the growing season is about five months long. They’re much larger than the beets you might see in the produce section of the grocery store or the ones grown in backyard gardens, weighing a whopping 3–5 pounds when harvested. Sugar beet farms can be found in California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

Sugar cane

Sugar cane is a perennial grass that is grown in more tropical climates. Perennial means it doesn’t need to be replanted every year. When sugar cane is harvested, it’s cut just above the root level so new sprouts will grow, ready to be harvested again in 10–12 months. The cane plants grow to be 10–20 feet high. Three U.S. states grow sugar cane: Florida, Louisiana and Texas.

sugar cane
U.S. Sugar Map


Growers and processors

Every day, family farmers plant, harvest and care for sugar beets and sugar cane used to bring the classic sweet flavor—and more—to the foods we enjoy. Many of these sugar beet and sugar cane farms have been passed down for several generations, making sugar growing an important family legacy.

The more you get to know sugar, the more you can appreciate it and enjoy it—in moderation. Get to know some of the growers and processors who make a living by nurturing nature’s oldest sweetener.

Farmer Profilessugar farmer Kenneth Gravois

Kenneth Gravois, Sugar Cane Specialist

Kenneth has dedicated his life to the sugar cane industry, and to better communicating what makes sugar such an important, and enjoyable, part of people’s lives.

Farmer Profilesbeet field

Joel Gasper, Sugar Beet Farmer

Joel wasn’t just born into sugar beet farming, he was a mere 16 years old when he bought his first shares in the American Crystal Sugar Company.

Sugar 101
Sugar 101

What Is Sugar?

You may have heard the term “sucrose” at one point or another—but what is that, really?

Learn More
Sugar 101

The Process: The Result Is Pure Sucrose

After sugar is harvested by farmers, it is processed and refined to ensure consistency and quality.

Learn More

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