Sugar in Modern Times

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

At present, beet sugar accounts for about 30% of the sucrose produced in the world. Russia, Germany, and the United States are the major beet growers, with California, Colorado, and Utah the leading states. The Caribbean is now a minor source of cane sugar, its role having been assumed by India and Brazil. Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Texas also produce sugar cane. Spurred by the demand of an increasingly populous and affluent West, world sugar production increased sevenfold between 1900 and 1964, a rate matched by no other major crop in history. And thanks to the development of methods for making sweeteners from corn, an even less expensive source, sugar has never been cheaper or more abundant in our diet. This is not necessarily good for our long-term health, and one of the major developments in 20th-century food manufacturing has been the development of ingredients that mimic the flavor and physical characteristics of sugar without having adverse effects on body weight and the regulation of blood sugar.