Difference Between Beet Sugar and Cane Sugar

Main Difference – Beet Sugar vs Cane Sugar

Sugar production and trade have transformed the progression of human antiquity in many different ways, prompting the development of colonies and influencing the ethnic arrangement and political structure of the world. In 2011, 168 million tons of sugar was produced worldwide. The average person consumes about 25 kilograms of sugar each year that is equal to over 260 food calories per person, per day. Sugars originate in the tissues of all most all plants. However, they are present in very high concentrations mainly in sugarcane and sugar beet. Thus, cane sugar refers to the sugar derived from sugarcane whereas beet sugar refers to the sugar derive from sugar beet. This is the main difference between beet sugar and cane sugar. Sugarcane belongs to the genus Saccharum that have been grown in tropical climates in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Sugar beet (Beta vulgaris), is cultivated as a root crop in cooler climates and turn into a main basis of sugar in the 19th century. The purpose of this article is to highlight the difference between sugar and cane sugar.

What is Beet Sugar

Beet sugar is known as sugar derived from sugar beet. Sugar beet (Beta vulgaris) root comprises a high concentration of sucrose and thus it is mainly grown commercially for beet sugar production. France, the United States, Germany, Russia, and Turkey are the leading sugar beet producers in the world. Normally, sugar beets contribute for 20% of the world’s sugar production.  The sugar beet has a pointed, white, fleshy taproot with a flat crown. In contrast to sugarcane, it is grown entirely in the temperate zone. The average weight of sugar beet is around 1 kg. The foliage of sugar beet has a brilliant green color and develops to a height of about 35 cm.Difference Between Beet Sugar and Cane Sugar

What is Cane Sugar

Sugarcane grows in the warm temperate to tropical countries of South Asia, Melanesia. It is mainly used for cane sugar production. Sugarcane is the world’s largest crop by production quantity, and Brazil is the largest producer of sugar cane in the world. The next main sugar cane producers are India, China, Thailand, Pakistan, and Mexico. The demand for granulated sugar is the principal driver of sugarcane agriculture and this account for 80% of sugar production in the world. This crop is primarily grown in the tropical and subtropical regions in the world. Cane sugar is cultivated not only for sugar production but also for production of falernum, molasses, rum, cachaça, bagasse and ethanol. Also, in some areas, sugarcane stalks are used to produce pens, mats, screens, and thatch.Main Difference - Beet Sugar vs Cane Sugar

Difference Between Beet Sugar and Cane Sugar

Beet sugar and cane sugar have substantially different sensory properties and uses. These differences may include,

Scientific Name

Beet sugar is derived from sugar beetBeta vulgaris

Cane sugar is derived from sugar cane Saccharum officinarum

Plant description

The sugar beet is a tap root, and it has a conical, white, fleshy root with a flat crown and a rosette of leaves. Although, sugar is synthesized by photosynthesis in the leaves and is then stored in the root. The mean weight of sugar beet is around 0.5 to 1 kg.

Sugar cane is a tropical tall perennial true grass which belongs to the grass family Poaceae, the genus Saccharum and tribe Andropogoneae. It has firmly connected fibrous stalks that are rich in the sucrose sugar which gathers in the stalk internodes. The plant is two to six meters tall.


The sugar beet generates sugar via C3 photosynthesis

Sugarcane is one of the most efficient photosynthesize mechanism. The sugar cane generates sugar via C4 photosynthesis and it is a C4 plant.

Sugar Storage Part

In Beet sugar, the taproot contains a high concentration of sucrose

In Cane sugar, Stout jointed fibrous stalks are rich in the sugar sucrose, which accumulates in the stalk internodes

Chemical Composition

The root of the sugar beet comprises 75% water, 20% sugar, and 5% fiber.

A mature sugar cane stalk  classically comprises 11–16% fiber, 12–16% soluble sugars, 2–3% non-sugars, and 63–73% water.

Climatic Requirements

Sugar beets grow entirely in the temperate zone

Sugarcane grows entirely in the tropical and subtropical zones


Beta vulgaris is the main beet sugar producing variety but other cultivars, such as the sea beet (Beta vulgaris maritima), beetroot and chard may have a low quantity of sugar.

There are 3 major varieties of sugar caneSaccharum barberi originating in India and edule and S. officinarum originating in New Guinea

Top Producers

Top 5 beet sugar producers in the world are France, the United States, Germany, Russia, and Turkey

Sugarcane is the world’s biggest crop by production quantity. Top 5 cane sugar producers in the world are Brazil, India, China, Thailand, Pakistan and Mexico.

Percentage Contribution for sugar production

Sugar beets account for 20% of sugar produced

Sugarcane accounts for 80% of sugar produced


Beet sugar: After harvesting, beets are transported to a factory. Each batch is weighed, and a beet sample is checked for damages and impurities. Then the beet is moved into a central channel where it is cleaned towards the processing plant. At the processing plant, the beetroots are mechanically sliced into thin strips and passed to a machine called a diffuser to extract the sugar content into a water solution. Then impurities from raw juice are removed by the process of carbonation before it undergoes crystallization. The raw juice is concentrated by evaporation in order to make a thick and dense juice. Then thick juice forms the crystallizers. Reprocessed sugar is liquefied into it, and the subsequent syrup is known as mother liquor. The mother liquor is concentrated by boiling under a vacuum in big vessels and obtained with fine sugar crystals.

Cane sugar: After harvesting, cane load is transported to a factory. Each batch is weighed, and a sample is checked for damages and impurities. At the processing plant, the cane stalks are mechanically sliced into thin strips and passed to a machine called a diffuser to extract the sugar content into a water solution. Then impurities from raw juice are removed by the process of carbonation before it undergoes crystallization. Sugar crystals appear in white color during the crystallization process. Sulfur dioxide is used to inhibit the formation of color-inducing molecules as well as to stabilize the sugar juices during evaporation. To produce granulated sugar, sugar must be dried by heating in a rotary dryer, and then by blowing cool air for several days.

Alternative Uses

Sugar beet is primary value as a cash crop. The pulp is a byproduct of the sugar beet crop which is insoluble in water and primarily comprise of cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and pectin. It is used as animal feed.

Other than sugar, falernum, molasses, rum, cachaça, bagasse, and ethanol are produced by sugarcane. The young unexpanded inflorescence of some sugarcane varieties is eaten raw, steam or toasted form.

In conclusion, refined sugar can be produced from either sugarcane or sugar beets. Although nutritionally they are equal, the refining process is different.  In addition to that, they each have slightly different sensory and physical properties. However, the beet sugar is not always easy to differentiate from cane sugar.

Difference between Beet Sugar and Cane Sugar -infographic


Magnuson, Torsten A. (1918). History of the Beet Sugar Industry in California. Annual Publication of the Historical Society of Southern California 11: 68–79.

Peter Griffee (2000). Saccharum Officinarum. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Poggi, E. Muriel (1930). The German Sugar Beet Industry. Economic Geography. 2 6: 81–93.

Taussig, F. W. (1912). Beet Sugar and the Tariff. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 2 26: 189–214.

Walton Lai (1993). Indentured labor, Caribbean sugar: Chinese and Indian migrants to the British West Indies, 1838–1918.

Image Courtesy:

“276 Beta vulgaris L” by Amédée Masclef – Atlas des plantes de France. 1891. (Public Domain) via

“Saccharum officinarum – Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-125″ by Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen – List of Koehler Images. (Public Domain) via

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