America—and the world—has a sweet tooth for sugary products. Much of the sugar used in these products comes from beets. Over the years, however, America's beet supply has largely transitioned to genetically modified (GMO) beets.
Big candy companies and other food manufacturers using beet sugar have found themselves a target of anti-GMO ingredients activists. The "simple" solution for entrepreneurs who want to sell their own food products on store shelves or in restaurants should use cane sugar instead of beet sugar.
Hershey Company Answer to GMO Concerns
In 1907, Hershey's Chocolate factory churned out Kisses in California's Central Valley, using locally sourced dairy, almonds, and sugar. These sugary confections provide an excellent example of how growing concern over GMO products has moved the hand of a company.
Jeff Beckman, a Hershey Company representative, confirmed that as part of its commitment to simplifying Hershey's ingredients, the company is transitioning from beet sugar to cane sugar. Here's what he had to say:
"We are currently leading industry conversations with suppliers and building our manufacturing capabilities to pursue non-genetically modified ingredients. Currently, we offer Scharffen Berger Chocolates, organic Dagoba Chocolates, Hershey’s Cocoa Powder and Hershey’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate that do not contain genetically modified ingredients. In 2015, you can expect products in our snacking portfolio that include non-genetically modified ingredients. We will be transitioning some of our most popular chocolate brands, including Hershey’s Kisses and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars, by  year end."
Include Cane Sugar In Your Recipes
Cane sugar is one crop that has not been slow in moving towards a genetic modification. In other words, while you will see some sugar companies choosing to apply for Non-GMO Project Verified seals for their cane sugar, in reality, most who work with sugar should know that most cane sugar is non-GMO. However, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non-profit with a genetic engineering focus, sugarcane is beginning to undergo the process to increase its sucrose yield.
All Certified Organic sugar is non-genetically modified. That is because organic certification guidelines prohibit GMO ingredients. If you see Certified Organic beet sugar or sugar made from other sources, it will not be genetically modified.
List of Major Cane Sugar Brands
Artisan candy makers, bakers, and any natural food makers can feel confident that when buying cane sugar or evaporated cane juice, you're getting sugar that is not genetically modified, and you can note that on your labels. A conglomerate called ASR owns most of the cane sugar brands including Tate & Lyle's of the UK, popular among candy makers for its Golden Syrup. Popular pure cane sugar brands include:
- Wholesome Sweeteners
- C&H Sugar
- Domino's Sugar
Only time will tell how the move among Hershey, Mars, and other food manufacturers to using cane sugar will impact prices and whether the beet industry can and will transition to non-GMO beets.
A Final Word on Why Non-GMO Makes a Smart Strategy
When formulating new food products for your business, choosing cane sugar makes sense. Consumers are increasingly choosing to buy non-GMO packaged foods. If you own a small business but want to think globally, choosing cane sugar expands your exporting possibilities. Many countries do not allow foods with genetically modified ingredients. In other words, choosing non-GMO sweeteners for your products is good for business.