“Sugar is the standard by which all other sweeteners are measured.’’
The next time you stir a spoonful of sugar into your coffee, stop and think about how the sugar got there. Most likely, it started as a tiny sugar beet seed.
“The beet sugar industry is a very complex operation all the way from seed development to the sugar bowl,” said Darvin Hauptli, Packaging and Warehouse Manager for Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in Renville MN.
“This process goes from the seed selection made by the farmer for the best sugar producing beets to Transystems safely delivering the beets to SMBSC. The ultimate goal is delivering the best and safest product to the consumer, using the safest, most efficient and environmentally sustainable factory operation as possible,” Darvin said.
“It is important to realize that this crystalized sugar is just like the sugar you buy at the grocery store and put on cereal,” Darvin noted. “A lot of people, even some in our growing area, don’t understand that sugar comes from beets.” Technology and science play a huge part in getting sugar from a beet.
After the beets are delivered to the factory flume, they are washed, sliced and swept along in a steamy bath to a diffuser where raw juice is produced. That juice is purified, clarified and filtered before being softened. Next it faces the high heat of the evaporators where the thin juice is concentrated into thick juice which is enriched with raw sugar in a scalding melter and filtered. The juice is further concentrated in large vacuum pans. Small sugar crystals are injected into the pans and the sugar crystals start to grow. A high-speed centrifuge harvests the crystals which are dried, cooled and sent to storage.
Once sugar is crystalized, it is sent to the factory’s sugar storage silos. “In the case of SMBSC, we have 11 different storage silos,” Darvin said. Sugar is pulled from the silos to the sugar warehouse where it can be packaged or loaded in bulk into rail cars or bulk trucks.
Safe and Sanitary
“Food safety and sanitation are the most important things we do in the factory,” Darvin said. “We want our customers to be comfortable and assured that we make the safest, best sugar on the market.”
SMBSC takes many steps toensure that. From the time the sugar is crystalized, dried and cooled in the factory, to the time it is put in a container, the sugar is in a completely closed system. Access into any of the sugar handling areas is controlled and limited to authorized, trained personnel.
The sugar handling and loading systems are designed to ensure that the product is safe. The systems include a series of screens for sifting. There are magnets in the system to collect metal that may be in the system and electronic metal detectors at the point of loading. All of the data generated during the sugar handling process, as well as a sugar samples taken during the loading and packaging process, is analyzed in a shipping laboratory prior to shipping, Darvin explained.
All staff members who work in the warehouse and shipping department are highly trained to recognize potential issues and take appropriate actions immediately.
Out the door
The Renville facility produces about 800 million pounds of granulated sugar each year. The factory also makes a small amount of liquid sugar. Once the sugar is made, it’s time to move it to the country’s sugar bowls.
SMBSC ships sugar in 50- pound bags, 2000-pound bags, bulk liquid sugar trucks, bulk pneumatic trucks, and in rail cars. Eighty percent of SMBSC sugar is shipped in bulk form. Half of it goes by bulk trucks which hold an average of 52,000 pounds. The rest of the bulk sugar moves by rail. A rail car of sugar holds a product weight of 220,000 pounds, Darvin explained.
“As you can see by those weights, we load about four trucks for each railroad car. SMBSC is capable of loading and shipping about 3 million pounds of sugar each day.” Sugar that is made by SMBSC is for large food manufacturing companies throughout the Midwest, and, in some cases, on the east coast. SMBSC also operates a beet sugar factory in Brawley, CA, which serves the southwest and west coast. Sugar from beets grown in Minnesota is used by cereal manufacturers, candy companies, baking companies and other food producing companies.
“These are contracted sales with companies that, in most cases, have been doing business with SMBSC for many years,” Darvin said.
“Consumers can always be assured that the purest, healthiest, best tasting sugar is in its natural state which is white crystalized beet sugar. As in all things, enjoy in moderation. Sugar is the standard by which all other sweeteners are measured.Why, then, would anyone choose another sweetener?”
Darvin Hauptli is the Packaging and Warehouse Manager for Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in Renville, MN. He has served as an instructor at the Beet Sugar Development Foundation for granulation, storage and food safety.
Article text taken from pages 7-8 of the TranSystems Summer 2015 Newsletter