Sugar Talk Sugar Talk
Laboratory Testing for Sugar Production
Ragus has over 90 years of experience manufacturing pure sugars and syrups. In fact, as long ago as 1880 our founder Charles Eastick, and his brother John, excited by sugar’s recent rise into ubiquity to British life, began a sugar analysis and consulting practice in the centre of London. Today, our state-of-the-art factory in Berkshire, has the latest advanced instrumentation, allowing Ragus to manufacture both straightforward and customised sugar formulations with a guaranteed supply on time and in full.
Ragus’ highly specialised team manufactures crystalline and syrup pure sugars that enable our customers to create products with consistent colour development, texture softening, flavour enhancement, binding of component ingredients and stability, for precise control to a specific formulation.
Ragus’ consulting service enables custom formulations to be created from the range of sugar products we manufacture. Our commitment to quality means that our sugar chemists follow demanding test procedures during the formulation of customised sugars and syrups made from raw materials that have full traceability.
To ensure we meet our customers’ specifications, all our pure sugar products are manufactured to the highest standards, so bearing this in mind meet Production Chemist Salwek Glowacki, as he explains the importance of Ragus’ state-of-the-art equipped sugar production laboratory.
QU: What is your role as a production chemist in Ragus’ laboratory?
“My role is to check and test all of the different sugars, syrups, molasses and glucose that we handle on site and approve them based on the specifications that they need to adhere to.”
“Our on-site laboratory is needed at our multi-million-pound state-of-the-art facility to test every product that arrives on site, test and monitor the progress of the production of our manufactured products and final check all products that leave our factory”.
QU: What are the sugar samples tested for and what is the importance of each test?
“All of our sugar products must be tested in order to meet their required specifications; for example, the pH balance, to verify the acidity/alkalinity, the colour to provide visual verification through the solution, polarisation to ensure that the product has been inverted correctly to attain the right conversion levels of fructose/glucose and for neutralisation to stop the process of sugar inversion.
We also have to verify the total amount of solids against the product specification which we do so by the BRIX method: this is a relative density scale that indicates the percent of sucrose by weight in a solution measured in degrees Brix (°Bx).”
QU: Ragus’ laboratory is well equipped with sophisticated instruments, but what are the different machines called and what are they used for?
“Yes, the laboratory is very well equipped with the best instruments recommended for testing, producing and carrying out chemical analysis on our sugar products. Our equipment allows us to analyse our samples for pH balances, colour, quality and much more.
For example, we use a high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) machine which allows us to separate, identify and quantify each component in a mixture.
We have refractometers (used for the BRIX testing) which are used to determine the index of refraction of liquid samples, and to measure fluid concentrations, such as sugar content. Polarimeters are also used in the laboratory for determining the different sugars in our syrups.”
QU: What could be the ramifications if Ragus did not test every production batch produced?
“Ragus could not and would not put our brand name against any product that is not thoroughly tested; if a product does not conform to our specifications then we would not verify it or release it.”
QU: Why does Ragus keeps every sugar or syrup sample for 18 months?
“All final product samples of both sugar and syrup that are manufactured at our facility must be kept for 18 months because on most products we give this as the best before date. We also have to keep our samples in the event that we ever get a complaint that a product has a fault, this way we are able to carry out further analysis.”
QU: What are the ICUMSA methods and do we adhere by their testing procedures? (The International Commission for Uniform Methods of Sugar Analysis)
“ICUMSA is the global body which brings together the activities of the National Committees for Sugar Analysis in more than 30-member countries.
The ICUMSA sugar colour grading system offers an easy way of categorising sugars; the ICUMSA developed a colorimetric method of measurement allowing producers to quickly and simply categorise their products in accordance with world-wide guidelines.
As Ragus are specialists in high quality natural pure sugars we use the ICUMSA specifications for both moisture analysis and colour analysis in all of our crystalline and syrup products.”
QU: What is EBC analysis and why do breweries use EBC testing for their colour standards and not ICUMSA?
“EBC (European Brewing Convention) is a special scale used to indicate colour in malts and sugars; the colour of beer can range from very lights to dark brown or black. Brewing industries prefer to use the EBC when colour grading their products because it is a much quicker process of colour verification than the ICUMSA method.”
Thanks, Salwek for giving a detailed insight of Ragus’ sugar technology laboratory.
A board member and co-leader of the business, Ben is responsible for our marketing strategy and its execution by the agency team he leads and is the guardian of our corporate brand vision. He also manages key customers and distributors.
In 2005, he took on the role of globally sourcing our ‘speciality sugars’. With his background in laboratory product testing and following three decades of supplier visits, his expertise means we get high quality, consistent and reliable raw materials from ethical sources.