How is sugar used in confectionery during Spring?

Mar 26 2020

The advent of Spring for Ragus means working to meet the sugar requirements dictated by the various celebrations associated with the season. With Mother’s Day for the UK behind us, attention now turns to Easter eggs, hot cross buns and Simnel cake.

Sugar in Easter eggs, chocolates and sweets

Easter eggs are synonymous with celebrating Easter, with 2019 seeing British consumers spend £146 million on this seasonal treat. Invert sugar plays an important role in chocolate, as its base of equal parts glucose and fructose means it does not crystallise. This makes it ideal for chocolate eggs, particularly to enrobe the soft fillings of chocolates.

Sugar allows control over crystallisation, therefore giving the manufacturer control over the structure and texture of sweets. The ratio of sugar to glucose syrup is what decides the softness or rigidity. Boiled sweets that need to crystallise have a higher ratio of sugar to glucose, whereas fondants, caramels or jellies have more glucose to prevent crystallisation and remain softer.

Boxes of chocolate and luxury confectionery also remain popular during Easter. Sugar is a key component to many of these. For example, muscovado sugar gives caramels their definitive taste and colour, with melted sugar providing the solid, shininess of hard toffee.

Ragus’ Pure Syrups range from familiar ingredients like Golden Syrup, to highly specialised products for industrial use, all manufactured at its advanced manufacturing site in the UK

Invert sugar is a crucial ingredient throughout the Spring period. 

Sugar in hot cross buns and Simnel cake

Hot cross buns are known to have existed since the 18th century, although similar recipes may have been used from the 1300s onwards. To this day they are one of the most prominent and well-known symbols of Easter. Last year 42% of all households in Britain purchased hot cross buns.

Invert sugar is used in hot cross buns, not just to sweeten the dough, but also as a humectant. This means that it is used to hold moisture in, keeping the buns fresh and moist, while creating a glaze on the top of the bun to prevent burning during baking. Invert sugar is ideal for this because its invert content retains moisture.

Another Easter favourite is Simnel cake, a traditional cake characterised by sheets of marzipan between and on top of layers of rich fruit cake. Light cane muscovado sugar is ideal for this luscious fruit cake as it provides a preservative effect while offering a strong, sweet flavour that would likely be lost amongst the other rich flavours if a white sugar was used.

Choosing the right sugar for your product is crucial to ensuring a consistent food product with a reliable taste. Contact Ragus now to benefit from over 90 years of sugar expertise.

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COVID-19: Ragus Company Statement

Mar 19 2020

As the country enters a new phase of the COVID-19 outbreak, Ragus has issued the below statement on the measures being taken to combat the risk of spreading the illness while keeping supply chains fully operational.

Official COVID-19 advice

COVID-19, or novel Coronavirus Disease 2019, is a new illness that can affect an individual’s lungs and airways. The symptoms of COVID-19 are a high temperature and a new and persistent cough. For official guidance on the illness, Ragus urges everyone to read the NHS/Coronavirus and coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response links – both pages are live updated throughout the day with official information and guidance.

Due to the situation in the UK escalating, Ragus believes it is necessary to communicate with its customers the actions it is taking to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to supply the nation with vital pure sugar products.

Coronaviruses cannot grow in food

Past experience with other coronaviruses, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, suggest that food is not a source or route of transmission of COVID-19. Coronaviruses cannot grow in food because they need a host (an animal or human) to grow in.

That said, to reduce the risk of contamination Ragus has increased the number of circumstances in which its food workers are required to wash their hands and has explicitly trained and educated its entire workforce on these new measures.

Self-isolation measures are also in place. If a food worker suspects any symptoms of COVID-19, it is their duty to inform the company and self-isolate for 14 days and be cleared of the virus before returning to work. The same protocol is also in place for any employee who experiences symptoms during a shift or lives in a household where someone develops symptoms.

Ragus factory and offices visits

All non-essential visits to the Ragus factory and offices have been postponed indefinitely to reduce the risk of spreading the illness, as per government advice. Ragus staff will also not be travelling on business trips for the foreseeable future.

In the offices, there remain essential duties to take place. To mitigate the risk in this circumstance, Ragus staff have been divided into three teams – production, sales and accounts. The production team now have no physical contact with either the sales or accounts teams – allowing the accounts team to work remotely from home, with the sales team also working from home, but rotating each member to work in the office one day per week.

Supply chain protocols

Ragus is working with its suppliers to ensure it can provide customers with crucial pure sugar products. Forward orders will be appreciated as they will allow Ragus to ensure it has the raw materials in place to meet specific customer requirements.

For inbound deliveries, all supplies and drivers are being subjected to a protocol before they can enter the site. Ragus expects that all its customers adopt similar procedures when receiving Ragus deliveries.

Reviewing advice daily

During this unprecedented situation for the nation, Ragus is taking all appropriate actions to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus while providing customers with crucial foodstuffs.

The situation is changing daily, and Ragus is meticulously monitoring and reviewing the guidance and procedures throughout each working day so that it can be prepared and proactive in its response.

We hope that everyone remains safe and well as the situation develops.

Transparent communication between all actors in the supply chain is the key to ensuring customer orders are met. Contact Ragus on +44 (0)1753 575353 or sales@ragus.co.uk to talk to a member of the team directly.

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Sourcing at Ragus: our commitments

Mar 12 2020

Sourcing is the starting point of everything we do; without it we could not produce our selection of specialist pure sugars and syrups. To ensure we maintain ethical, transparent and reliable sourcing supply chains, Ragus senior management routinely visit suppliers around the world. Below, we outline what these trips involve and how they contribute to operations at Ragus.

Finding the right suppliers

The first step in sourcing is finding suitable suppliers. As a prerequisite to working with Ragus, our suppliers must respect human rights – including our zero tolerance policy towards modern slavery – and be against any form of corruption. This is just an overview of our ethical criteria: for a wider indication of our CSR strategy, visit our Ten Pillars of CSR at Ragus.

To ensure suppliers adhere to Ragus’ ethical standards, our directors and senior leadership team travel all over the world to find the most suitable plantations, mills and refineries around. Experiencing these mills and refineries first-hand allows us to understand whether these organisations share the same responsibilities and values as us.

For Ragus to partner with a supplier, ethical standards are just a starting point. We must also select based on our strict quality demands. As different parts of the world grow different types of sugar – cane or beet – we need to navigate the market and select the suppliers that best meet our needs.

This means sourcing cane sugar from mills in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, while sourcing beet sugar from refineries in Europe. Sugar beet is also grown in North America, but as we are headquartered in the UK, we source all our beet sugar from within Europe.

It is important to note that with cane sugar, the location of the growing region is much more significant. For example, sugar cane grown in Mauritius is different to that grown in Australia, and this affects the quality and performance of the cane sugar when we use it to produce our range of pure sugars and syrups. Therefore, it is essential that we conduct thorough research – and continuously review this research – to discover the right suppliers.

We meet growers and suppliers in person on our sourcing trips. 

Auditing the supplier’s refining process

Once we have established that their ethical standards and growing conditions meet our criteria, we then need to audit the supplier’s refining procedures. Much like their growing conditions, the refining process for beet sugar and cane sugar is not the same. Below, we’ll explain both operations in rudimentary terms.

For beet, the process involves slicing the beets into thin strips, followed by diffusing, pressing, evaporating, centrifuging and drying before the refined sugar is sieved, metal detected and packaged. Follow this link for a more thorough, step-by-step guide of the beet refining operation.

With cane, the leaves are removed, and cane is pressed from chopped stalks using high pressure rollers. Then, the juice is purified, evaporated, boiled, centrifuged and dried before the refined sugar is sieved, metal detected and packaged. As above, this link to our learning zone will provide a more detailed explanation of the process.

On our sourcing trips, it is our duty to ensure these refining processes meet our standards. Therefore, Ragus’ QESH (Quality, Environment, Health and Safety) Manager plays a critical role in auditing suppliers’ refining procedures, with key assessments concerning health, safety and hygiene.

Then, we audit each stage of the refining process. 

Securing a good deal for everyone

Once satisfied with the safety of the production process and the quality of the product, the more ‘business-like’ meetings take place.

At this point, we sit down with our suppliers and discuss how much product is required for a 12 month period and at what price. In the sugar industry, stock is usually measured in tonnes, and price is always dependent on the quality of the product, and the state of play in the global sugar market. Price and quantity agreed, we move onto logistics, such as shipping schedules and delivery times.

Every meeting is unique, but usually at this point we cement the positive relationships we have developed over the course of the audit. Transparency, traceability and trust are the foundations of these relationships, helping us create long-term partnerships with our suppliers.

Finally, we sit down and discuss product, price, and tonnage.

Ragus’ commitment to CSR, combined with its extensive expertise, ensures that its sourcing practices are quality, safe and fair. Watch our sourcing video here to see these practices in action.  

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What is the BRC Global Standard?

Mar 05 2020

In this week’s blog, we look at the BRC Global Standard, an essential consideration for every food production facility. While we won’t be able to cover every aspect of the BRC, we can explain its key definitions, its auditing procedure, and how companies interpret the standard in day-to-day operations.

What is the BRC Global Standard?

The BRC Global Standard is a universally recognised standard that sets out essential regulations companies involved in food production must follow. Although British in name the standard is recognised in over 130 countries. As a result, it is seen as the key standards baseline for food manufacturing companies across the world.

Without the BRC there would be difficulties bordering on impossibilities with the buying and selling of food products. By centralising food safety standards, the BRC makes production processes safer and saves production companies time and money.

Risk, however, will always be an unavoidable part of food production. It can be significantly reduced, but never totally eliminated. A standard as far reaching as the BRC, then, is the most effective way of mitigating risk and enhancing customer confidence in a production programme.

The standard is laid out in two manuals that educate and guide on issues of safety, integrity, legality and quality. The first manual defines the BRC’s rules and the second explains how users can interpret these rules for application in their specific companies.

With such a detailed standard to meet, it is crucial that food production companies are adequately resourced. As Ragus’ QESH Manager (Quality, Environment, Safety and Health), I am tasked with overseeing how the BRC, along with a host of other food safety standards, is implemented.

Above we see one of the final steps in the production process, filling an IBC for delivery. 

How is the BRC audited?

To verify their compliance with BRC standards, food production companies are inspected once a year by an independent BRC auditor. After this, they are graded: AA, A, B, C and D. The company’s grade is determined by the number of non-conformities found during the assessment. If present, these need to be corrected with 28 days of the audit.

If there are too many non-conformities, the BRC auditor will revisit within the month to ensure sufficient changes have been made to operations. But if the company fails to adequately change, it will become uncertified. As a result, the company will legally no longer be allowed to supply customers with its food products – not that many customers would want their products.

The audit usually takes between one and two days because it is a sample intended to represent the company’s wider operations, although this varies depending on the size and the complexity of the site. As the auditor does not have enough time to fully inspect the entirety of the standard within the two days, the most common method of auditing is by talking to employees and discussing the company’s production processes.

The best way to meet the standard, therefore is through thorough and effective training of all employees. During an audit, one misinformed answer could prove the difference between an AA and an A. It is essential that all staff are routinely trained and then retrained to ensure both safe food production and the highest possible BRC grade.

The requirements of the BRC are covered in 9 parts, with regular amendments made to ensure standard operating procedures are updated. They are:

-Senior management commitment and continual improvement

-The food safety plan: HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points)

-Food safety and quality management system

-Site standards

-Product control

-Process control

-Personnel

-High-risk, high-care and ambient high-care production risk zones

-Requirements for traded products

The significance of Critical Control Points in meeting the BRC

Meeting the BRC Global Standard is team-wide process where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As such, we will use Ragus’ Critical Control Points (CCPs) as an example.

CCPs are the stages during the production process that present the greatest level of risk. It is crucial that these points are controlled and monitored to guarantee the resulting product meets the highest standards of quality and safety. Therefore, the fewer control points you have, the more control you have over the process. In Ragus’ production facility, the three CCPs are as follows:

-Filtering during filling – to prevent contamination from foreign bodies, liquid products must pass through a filter that ranges between 80 and 2000 microns, depending on the viscosity of the product. The liquid products are passed through around 50 of these filters before being packaged in a brand new intermediate bulk container (IBC) for each order, significantly reducing risk.

-Screening before sieving – to prevent contamination from foreign bodies, solid products must pass through a mesh screen ranging between 1.8mm and 2.8mm. Every four hours, this screen is replaced to alleviate any risk of potential wear and tear.

-Metal detection before packaging – all dry sugar products must pass through a metal detector that detects metal as small as 2mm. For this reason, we buy specially designed, detectable pens, for writing in the production area.

If any of these three CCPs are breached, then the facility automatically stops production. This allows us to isolate and quarantine the batch so that we can investigate how the product became contaminated. Managing CCPs, therefore, is the single most important part of any production process.

Drawing a clear path of traceability

From the moment we source our raw materials to the time we deliver pure sugar products to our customers, every stage of the process is recorded, checked and signed off.

For example, we apply a batch code to every product we manufacture. This means that even when the product has been delivered, we can carry out additional tests and trace its production history. From here, we can diagnose any problem that may occur and prevent it from happening again.

The above demonstrates the complex and essential safety standards that underpin food production. For Ragus, these are just the beginning. From here, we apply our decades of expertise in manufacturing, consulting and delivering pure sugars and syrups.

Do you want to take advantage of this for your food product? Contact us now on +44 (0)1753 575353 or sales@ragus.co.uk 

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