Our best perspectives from 2019

Dec 23 2019

As 2019 draws to a close, we’ve compiled a list of our ten favourite blogs from another fascinating year in the world of sugar.

  1. Tariffs on sugars explained (22 February 2019)

In February, when we explored how the complex system of European Union (EU) sugar tariffs could change in a post-Brexit Britain. This involved explaining the concept of international trade tariffs, and then specifically explaining how EU sugar tariffs affect businesses in the EU, resulting in a series of Brexit-themed blogs.

The complexities of the system lie in the different rules the EU applies to sugar: basic tariffs, raw sugar tariffs, preferential tariff structure and Least Developed Countries tariffs to name but a few. As well as this the tariff is also determined by whether sugar is destined for direct consumption or to be further refined into white sugar.

Not understanding the implications of the EU’s tariff system can prove costly for all businesses involved in the sugar supply chain. Follow this link for the full breakdown.

  1. The importance of ethical supply chains (25 April 2019)

Sourcing is a crucial aspect of Ragus’ operations. Having scrupulous supplier auditing processes allows us to ethically source the highest quality raw materials. Central to this is ensuring all actors in the supply chain are paid fairly for their work.

That’s why in this blog from April, we underlined our commitment to ethical supply chains by demonstrating how we enforce this practice day-to-day.

At Ragus, we go out of our way to meet all actors within the supply chain personally.

  1. Granular Detail: Invert Sugar (16 May 2019)

Our founder, Charles Eastick, distinguished Ragus from its competitors by specialising in invert sugars when the company was first established in 1928. Since then, we have further honed this expertise to develop the high quality range of invert sugars Ragus produces today.

Therefore, this edition of Granular detail is particularly important to us. The blog explains what invert sugar is, which products it can be used in, and what advice we would give to clients when buying invert sugar.

Find out everything you need to know about invert sugar here.

  1. Global sugar market report 2019 (7 June 2019)

One of our most popular blogs of the year, this was the latest entry in our annual sugar market reports. We released the report at the midpoint of the calendar year to give enough time to provide a fair analysis of the global sugar market and we are planning to do the same in the new year.

The report assessed the global sugar price and analysed the primary factors that affected supply, demand and price in each of the largest sugar producing nations in the world. The main takeaway was that global sugar price was the lowest in a decade due to a global surplus of sugar.

To see the report in full, follow this link.

  1. How is sugar used in the pharmaceutical industry? (12 June 2019)

 Many people aren’t aware or don’t realise the crucial role sugar plays in the pharmaceutical industry. From precisely dosed pharmaceutical grade sugar for pills and capsules to invert sugar for cough syrups, its applications in this industry are vast and numerous.

This blog explains how and why sugar is used as an excipient – the functions it performs, the type of sugar used, and the testing procedures it needs to go through. Find out everything you need to know about sugar in the pharmaceutical industry here.

Sugar plays a vital role acting as an excipient in medicine.

  1. Safeguarding sustainability at Ragus (18 July 2019)

In the modern world, we are more aware of how our actions impact the environment than ever before. Sustainability has therefore become a core focus for Ragus within the last ten years, forming one of our 10 pillars of corporate social responsibility.

So, this blog was an easy choice for the list because it is testament to the ways that we are continually improving our operations at Ragus – limiting waste, increasing efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint. We understand that we need to work towards building a more sustainable sugar industry together, and we will continue working towards these goals in 2020.

  1. Taking sugar away is not the answer (30 August 2019)

In August, we looked at the increased attention sugar has been given both by the public and the government. This culminated in the UK’s sugar tax, which was introduced on 6 April 2018. But as Ragus has such a long history in the sugar industry, we have seen attitudes towards sugar ebb and flow for many decades.

Therefore, this blog suggests the idea that totally removing sugar from our food and drinks might not be the answer, as artificial replacements currently aren’t suitable. To find out why this, read the full blog here:

  1. India becomes world’s biggest sugar producer: but at what cost? (17 October 2019)

In October, Indian Council of Agricultural Research Assistant Director-General, R.K. Singh announced that India had overtaken Brazil to become the world’s largest sugar producing nation. This was significant news for the sugar industry, but not necessarily positive, as it was as a result of the global sugar surplus.

Therefore, in this blog, we reviewed the problem of overproduction and suggested that India adopt the Brazilian model of co-production: producing ethanol as well as sugar from their sources of sugar cane.

  1. The sugar beet harvest: from the field to the factory (28 November 2019)

We pride ourselves on our commitment to fair and quality sourcing, and harvest season always presents the perfect time to visit our suppliers and audit where our sugar comes from. Our most recent supplier visit formed the basis of a blog.

Here, we could explain the complexity of the beet refining process alongside actual photographs we have taken. It’s important to be transparent with our sourcing procedures, and this blog allowed us to do that while also making it easier to understand how sugar beet is refined into sugar.

Overseeing a sugar beet combine harvester in action. 

  1. Ragus’ sugar story: how our 90-year heritage informs our practices (5 December 2019) 

Our 90-year heritage has helped build our expertise in sourcing, manufacturing, consulting and delivering. As December is a time where we often connect with our family traditions, it offered the ideal opportunity to engage with the company’s history.

The blog shows Ragus’ rich heritage into four stages: its origins in Victorian London, its birth during the war years (1914-1945), its development across new horizons (1950-1990), and its modernisation in the twenty-first century, which you can find more about here.

The enduring theme is that Ragus has evolved with the changing demands of the sugar market while also maintaining the most important parts of its heritage, making it the perfect blog to end our list with.

Thanks to everyone who has read and engaged with Ragus’ blog posts throughout 2019. We hope this final blog has provided you with a chance to catch up on anything you might have missed from the past year, and we will be back in 2020 to talk all things pure sugar.

No responses yet

How can different sugars affect Christmas pudding?

Dec 19 2019

With Christmas week fast approaching, we’ve explored how different sugars in Christmas puddings give distinct results.

What is a traditional Christmas pudding?

To be classed as a pudding, a cake must be cooked by being steamed in a basin on a hob. Eating the Christmas variety of this can be traced back to medieval times, making it one of the oldest Christmas traditions currently observed in Britain.

But it was among the upper classes of post-Reformation England that the Christmas pudding first started to become a fashionable Christmas day dessert, its thirteen ingredients representing Christ and his twelve Apostles. As a result, it comprised of what were considered luxury ingredients: fresh fruit, spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon, and set in alcohol to act as a humectant.

While the present day Christmas pudding is no longer centred around a display of wealth, the core principles remain the same. It is still composed of a diverse set of ingredients to create a powerful flavour, and the inclusion of sugar is pivotal to creating a sweet dessert and adds to this flavour.

As the taste of Christmas puddings is intended to be strong and rich, they are now generally aged in alcohol to increase the flavour complex rather than to prolong their edibility. This means they now have a range of different cooking times and can be cooked months in advance to help mature the flavour, or even as late as Christmas Eve for those with less time.

The result of this change in culinary preferences is that a variety of different sugars can be used in Christmas puddings recipes to give different results. So, we’ve provided below a recommendation of which sugars we would use in different Christmas pudding recipes to produce the optimal flavour combinations.

Nowadays, Christmas pudding recipes have a wide range of ingredients, and different sugars should be used in these recipes to provide distinct results. 

The classic Christmas pudding

A traditional Christmas pudding is made months in advance from a mix of nutmeg and cinnamon, combined with dried currants, sultanas, raisins, orange zest and apple. Therefore, dark soft brown sugar is used to best complement this fruity flavour.

Dark soft brown sugar has a high cane molasses content, and this provides a rich toffee-like flavour, making it an ideal component for the traditional fruit-based Christmas pudding, with the dark colour of dark soft brown sugar helping to create the classic dark/red colour scheme.

Once ready, the pudding should be steamed for four hours, before the basin is taken out of the saucepan and wrapped in clingfilm and foil. From here, it can be given time to mature in a cool, dark place for several months in advance.

The quick Christmas pudding

Modern day working commitments do not always allow time to prepare a traditional Christmas pudding. So, as a quick and easy alternative, we recommend using mixed spices, mixed dried fruit and orange zest as the core ingredients. To complement this mix and the shorter time frame, use light cane muscovado sugar and golden syrup.

Sadly, the quick Christmas pudding recipe does not allow for enough cooking time to unlock the richer flavours of a dark cane muscovado sugar or a dark soft brown sugar. It is therefore better to use light cane muscovado sugar because it gives a more subtle toffee flavour to balance the quick steaming.

Golden syrup helps add further sucrose content to the dessert. Due to the lighter colour of the light cane muscovado sugar, this quick Christmas pudding will have a much lighter complexion than a traditional Christmas pudding.

This Christmas pudding should be steamed for an hour and a half on Christmas Eve, before the basin is wrapped in clingfilm and foil, and stored in a cool and dark place overnight, ready for an extra thirty minutes steaming the next day.

The luxury Christmas pudding

A so-called ‘luxury’ Christmas pudding uses the same ingredients as its traditional counterpart but enhances them with many more. In addition to the traditional ingredients, ginger stem, ginger slices, ground allspice and advocaat are often added. This is to create a much richer flavour than the traditional and quick recipes, which means that Eastick’s golden syrup, dark cane muscovado sugar and treacle no.2 make perfect ingredients.

Eastick’s golden syrup has the highest sugar content of all our golden syrups, so is best for building a sweet, luxury product. Dark cane muscovado sugar is the perfect match for a luxury Christmas pudding because it has a much richer flavour than most other crystallines, which serves to complement the ginger in this pudding. Treacle no.2 also has a strong flavour profile that adds to the rich, luxurious taste of this product, and is smoother than our other treacles, meaning its flavour is not overpowering.

This Christmas pudding should be steamed for four hours to fully develop its rich flavour and then the basin should be removed from the saucepan and wrapped in clingfilm and foil, where it can be given time to mature in a cool, dark place several months in advance.

Ragus is one of the world's leading pure sugar manufacturers. It sources raw sugar from across the world to manufacture sugars, syrups and special formulations from its advanced UK factory. Ragus ships its sugars globally, delivering on-time and in-full to customers across the baking, brewing, confectionary, and pharmaceutical industries

Dark cane muscovado sugar is the perfect ingredient for a more luxurious Christmas pudding.

The extra fruity Christmas pudding

The final Christmas pudding option is extra fruity. We wouldn’t call it the extra fruity Christmas pudding without good reason, so this recipe includes sultanas, currants, cranberries, cherries, sloe gin, orange and lemon zest and apple, as well as nutmeg and mixed spices.

With such a fruity core to this pudding, the sugar ingredients need a strong profile. This means that we recommend using dark soft brown sugar and molasses. Dark soft brown sugar already has a high molasses content, but when combined with molasses the sugar flavour becomes strong and robust. This particular pudding is steamed for over five hours, with the viscosity of the molasses maintaining the sugar content in such a long cooking time.

Once the cooking time is completed, the basin should be taken out of the saucepan and wrapped in clingfilm and foil, where it can be given time to mature in a cool, dark place for   several months in advance – doing so allows the molasses rich flavour profile to complement the sweetness of the additional fruit best.

Product innovation has always been a common feature of Ragus’ 90-year working practices. Contact us today to find out how we can manufacture the most effective custom formulation for your application.

No responses yet

How the outcome of the election could affect the UK sugar industry

Dec 12 2019

As Britain goes to the polls, what impact could the election have on the UK’s sugar industry?

What do businesses want from the UK general election?

Another year has passed and the time for making and confirming deals based on tonnage and sugar type has come and gone. We are still, therefore, uncertain of the export/import situation, largely due to a lack of Brexit negotiations clarity. The sugar industry needs to know what tariffs will be in place if/when we leave the EU (European Union), and what will be done in the meantime now that it has been speculated that it may take up to 24 months from the election date to finally leave the EU.

We have taken steps to ensure customer needs are met regardless of the outcome, including sourcing sugars from countries that will potentially be tariff free, meaning the sugar reserves are ready at a stable price for us and our customers. The best outcome, however, is clarity, certainty and consistency from whichever party or parties are chosen to lead the next government.

We have been assured that we will not need to stockpile sugar further. 

The potential outcomes

After looking through the various manifestos, I have drawn a rough conclusion for what will happen to the UK sugar industry in the case of each of the parties achieving a majority.

Conservative-led government

Current polls (at time of writing) suggest the most likely outcome of the election is a conservative majority. The Conservatives have recognised the trade tensions and promise to provide secure market going forward. We have been assured that we won’t need to further stockpile sugar, the negative effects of which are listed in a previous blog.

They “aim to have 80% of UK trade covered by free trade agreements within the next three years”, but until then it seems we would have to wait for up to 12 months to know exactly how tariffs would change for the sugar industry.

Labour-led government

Labour have said they will hold a second EU referendum, in order to give the public the chance to vote on a specific deal. Should this result in the decision to leave, the delay in leaving and uncertainty on trade deals and tariffs would last longer, the timeframe of which we have no idea.

Their manifesto suggests Britain would still be trading with the EU, but until a deal is confirmed we would be trading under World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs, making sugar more expensive to import from the EU. Without the EU, Britain currently has a smaller market and therefore less power in negotiations. Should we vote to remain, Britain will likely continue as before, although the exchange rate could be altered.

Liberal Democrat-led government

The Liberal Democrats are firmly on the side of remaining in the EU and ending Brexit, meaning no tariffs for sugar, from within the EU. The liberal democrats are pledging to secure stronger, better trade deals using the EU’s negotiating power, and maintaining the ease of trade deals with the EU for British farmers. However, the likelihood of the Liberal Democrats achieving a majority is so small, they will probably end up in a coalition government or having no say at all.

A hung parliament

Should there be a hung parliament, which some opinion polls are predicting, the resulting government is likely to be a Conservative or Labour-led coalition. This government could contain frictions and opposing ideas, meaning delays in leaving the EU. So, while tariffs are likely to remain unchanged, certainty will probably be no closer than it is now.

Parties tipped to form a coalition government are the Brexit Party, Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Liberal Democrats. The impact their presence will have will only be known once the terms of their coalition deal have been agreed.

Will the election mean an end to uncertainty for the UK sugar industry?

At this time, no party can say with certainty what will happen in the coming months. Instead, we will have to continue with our measures to combat the uncertainty that Brexit brings, for at least the next 6-12 months and wait for the clarity that we, and so many other businesses, want and need.

Check our blog page or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to be notified when our next update is published.

No responses yet

Ragus’ sugar story: how our 90-year heritage informs our practices

Dec 05 2019

December is a time of festivities and family traditions. So, for this week’s blog, we’ve reflected on our family history to engage with the seasonal spirit.

The inspiration behind Ragus, 1880s

Between the 1740s and the 1820s, sugar was Britain’s most valuable import. As sugar became ubiquitous in British life, its potential for new products and new business captured the imagination of our founding fathers, the chemists and brothers, John and Charles Eastick. Consequently, in 1880 they established a sugar consulting practice in the heart of Victorian London.

Within two years their ground-breaking work and product innovation caught attention throughout the city. So much so that Abram Lyle, a business owner and entrepreneur, invited our founding fathers to set up a laboratory at his Plaistow refinery.

However, the following year the British sugar industry was shaken by shortage as cargo ships importing raw cane sugar were restricted in the capital. With the demand for the sweet crystalline higher than ever before, Charles used the shortfall as an opportunity to experiment with sugar run-off product from the refining process. The resulting invention was golden syrup.

The golden elixir was an instant hit in the British market – and is now the oldest branded food product in the world – and by 1885 it was being stored in its renowned metal tins, something that has continued to this day.

After the triumph of golden syrup, our founding fathers decided it was time to expand their passion beyond the chemistry of sugar and branched out into manufacturing and consulting. In 1890 John emigrated to Australia to manage Bundaberg’s sugar production – the largest sugar producer in Australia – and Charles moved to the Martineau sugar refinery in central London, where he became managing director.

Golden syrup produced by Ragus, one of the world's leading pure sugar manufacturers, from its advanced manufacturing site in the UK that also produces a range of pure sugars, blends and glucose products

Eastick’s golden syrup is Ragus’ signature golden syrup, and its name is inspired by both our founder, and the inventor of golden syrup, Charles Eastick.

The war years, 1914-1945

As the First World War commenced, Charles focused on helping the war effort. Such was the popularity of sugar that Charles became responsible for administering the UK wartime sugar rationing quotas, and his services were of such value to the nation, that he was awarded an MBE.

Come the end of war and sugar was as popular as ever before, with the industry dominated by the UK’s largest sugar refineries. But by this point, John had returned to London, and our founding fathers had gained approval for eleven sugar refining patents which would allow them to set themselves apart from the major players.

Therefore, in 1928 Charles oversaw the building of a syrup production factory in Slough, where he continued to manufacture specialised sugars such as golden syrup, inverted sugars and fruit cordial syrups for confectioners, bakers and brewers. The application of inverted sugar was a particularly innovative concept, and quickly became popular in the British market. This was the birth of the Ragus we know today and is how the company derived its name; Ragus is sugar inverted.

However, as the Second World War took hold of British life, the nation was once again struck by shortages, including almost no access to fruit, which was a vital production material in Ragus’ cordial syrups. Rather than admitting defeat, though, our founding fathers used this challenge as a platform for innovation, creating a honey alternative made from crystallised golden syrup, which was popular through the war and beyond.

New horizons, 1950-1990

Following the end of war, and subsequently, the end of rationing, demand for sugar surged again. Charles’ grandsons, Barrington and Ronald, took over the company and continued to pursue their grandfather’s innovation, expanding the company across new horizons by forming a new market: using sugar as a winter energy food in animal feed.

This period saw Ragus’ workforce double by 1970, owing to the demand of their new products. Alongside syrups and inverted sugars, they had started to produce raw cane sugar which sold in large quantities, as well as celebrating Ragus’ status as the UK’s last independent sugar producer.

But the end of this chapter came in 1990, when Ronald and Barrington retired and passed the baton onto Charles Eastick’s great grandsons, James, Peter and Benjamin.

Bringing sugar into the 21st century

A changing market has meant that Ragus has stopped manufacturing sugar based animal feed, and the company now focuses explicitly on food based pure sugar products such as crystallines, syrups and custom formulations. We do this through our quality sourcing and auditing of primary production materials, our manufacturing and consulting expertise passed down through generations of Easticks, and our commitment to the highest levels of customer service in our delivering procedures.

Just as our founding fathers did before us in 1928, Ragus has overseen the building of a purpose built factory in 2013 to cope with the modern day demands of the sugar market. Indeed, the multi-million-pound state-of-the-art factory is probably far greater than anything Charles and John could have imagined. The business has expanded from a UK-based sugar producer into a full-service operation that supplies hundreds of tonnes of pure sugar to customers all over the world.

Ragus is proud of our family heritage and continues to install our founding fathers’ legacy of innovation, quality and expertise in the modern day.

Our 90-year heritage means that we are experts in sourcing, manufacturing, consulting and delivering. For more information on our pure sugar products, contact us on +44 (0)1753 575353 or sales@ragus.co.uk.

No responses yet