Where can I buy vegan sugar… and why is sugar not vegan in the first place?
I never thought I’d ask myself “where can I buy vegan sugar” because… sugar is sugar right? What’s not vegan about it?
Sugar in itself is vegan, but it’s the process of making sugar that makes some sugars not vegan
Sugar is made from the extracted juice of either sugar beet, or sugar cane. The juice is concentrated into a syrup, then crystalized and finally dried into raw sugar. To produce white, or refined sugar, the raw sugar needs to be transformed further. It is during the refining process that some raw sugars will be treated with bone char.
What is bone char?
Bone char is made from cow bones that are treated at a very high temperature to produce a porous, black, granular material. Because of the mad cow disease scare, the bones typically come from animals in countries where the disease didn’t spread, such as Afghanistan, Argentina, India and Pakistan.
Bone char is used by the sugar industry to decolorize raw cane sugar (beet sugar is not refined with bone char) and turn it into the refined white sugar we buy in bags at the grocery store. Although it is questionable as to whether there remains traces of the bone char in the final product (you’d think you would notice black granules in white refined sugar), vegans stay away from refined sugar as a way to not support using animal parts in the transformation of what they consume.
Where can I buy vegan sugar?
Common refined sugar found at the grocery store does not usually indicate whether it is sourced from sugar cane (could be treated with bone char) or sugar beet (not treated with bone char). The ingredient is typically just listed as “sugar”. This doesn’t mean that all generic supermaket sugar is off limits. Some companies do not refine their raw cane sugar with bone char. In Canada, Redpath uses chalk to decolorize their sugar. Another large suger producer, Rogers, uses sugar beet in some of its factories (Taber, Alberta plant), and sugar cane refined with bone char in others (Vancouver, British-Columbia plant). If you were to buy Rogers sugar, you would need to know which plant produced the sugar (there is a little trick: check the numbered code printed on the bag. If it starts with 10, it was made in Vancouver. If it starts with 22, it came from Taber).
If you are ready to do a bit of research, contact the company that makes the sugar you typically would buy and ask them how their sugar is refined.
If all the sugar in your supermarket is refined with bone char, there are many online stores that carry beet sugar, or unrefined cane sugar. Here are some vegan sugars you can find on Amazon:
Organic cane sugar is usually NOT refined with bone char.
Could other types of sugar (brown sugar, powdered sugar) also be treated with bone char? Unfortunately yes. This is why a bit of research is required before buying your favorite brand at the supermarket.
If you don’t feel like doing the research and are looking for a supplier of various sugars not treated with bone char, I recommend checking out Wholesome Sweeteners products.
If you want other suggestions of where to buy vegan products online, I have made a list of vegan vendors in another post.