Before sugar existed, what was used as a sweetener ?
Products from nature like birch sap, grape must, which was still used during the 15th century for making jam and honey especially and, depending on the regions of the world, carob pods, date pulp and fig pulp.
How did beet sugar come into being ?
During the 16th century, the agronomist Olivier de Serres guessed that the beet he produced was interesting from a sweetening point of view. But back then, no one wanted to know.
In 1745, 150 years later, a German chemist, Andreas Marggraf, presented a dissertation to the Berlin Academy of Sciences on experiments that he had carried out, where he explained in particular that sugar beet contained “real sugar” and that its aspect, taste and qualities were totally on a par with those of cane sugar.
Marggraf, however, went on to pursue other experiments in other fields and beet sugar was totally forgotten yet again.
In 1786, Frédéric Achard, one of Marggraf’s students, resumed the work on beet. Achard managed to develop the main extraction steps, but he believed that beet sugar content increased with storage time when, in actual fact, it decreased.
It was during the French Empire period that beet really took off.
What role did Napoleon play in beet sugar production ?
Napoleon played a decisive role in beet sugar production. In 1806, he established the Continental Blockade against the English who, to retaliate, prevented merchant ships from entering French ports.
As such, France was faced with a sugar shortage as it could no longer import. This led to Napoleon encouraging researchers to extract sugar from a plant that grew in France.
In 1812, Benjamin Delessert presented the first loaves of beet sugar, which were as white as those of cane sugar, to Napoleon.
Napoleon awarded Benjamin Delessert the Legion of Honour, then created grants for studying and distributed 500 production licences.
He ordered beets to be planted on 100,000 hectares of land and urged industrials to produce in huge quantities.
Who invented sugar cubes ?
Until 1854, sugar only existed as loaves and was dispatched to grocery stores in this form. Sugar was broken into pieces with a special cleaver and a special hammer.
In 1843, Jacob Kristof Rad produced the first-ever sugar cubes, by carrying out several rather artisanal-type steps (by trickling melted sugar unto a tray, sawing it up once it had solidified, then breaking it up into cubes).
A Parisian grocer, Eugène François, developed a sugar loaf sawing and breaking-up system that he would continue to improve for 20 years. He filed his patent for the “François breaker” in 1875.
Around 1900, in Belgium, Téophile Adant developed a series of tools that industrialized Jacob Rad’s process. A new stage was reached with compression moulding, in 1949.
When was the first refinery set up in France ?
French refineries can be traced back quite a long time.
In 1735, 15 refineries, established in and around ports, worked with sugar produced in French colonies.
During the Revolution, there were, in particular, 25 in Orléans, 26 in Bordeaux, 5 in Nantes and 15 in Marseille.
Around 1850, 300 refineries were operational throughout France.
In 1860, only 50 remained, in 1913 there were only 26, in 1939 only 19, 18 in 1960 and 15 in 1987.
Today there are only two refineries –which focus significantly on the conditioning, commercialization and distribution of sugar for consumption—and which belong to two companies, established on the ports of Marseille and Nantes.
Is it true that we consume more sugar than before ?
Consumption has remained stable in France over the last 30 years. According to surveys on individual consumption, sugar consumption is estimated at 25 kg / person / year (table sugar + sugar added to sweet/sugared products).