sugar demand
and supply
in the UK

Top uk sugar market field

how UK beet sugar and cane from overseas meets demand

Top uk sugar market factory

the UK sugar sector

The UK demand for sugar is currently around 1.71 million tonnes annually and comes from two main sectors; the food and drink manufacturing and retail markets. Roughly 80% of the demand is from food and drink manufacturers, where it is used as an ingredient in a wide range of food and drink products, such as baked goods, confectionary or desserts. Around 20% of the demand is used by the retail and food service where it is sold to supermarkets, coffee shops, takeaways and restaurants.

The majority of UK consumer sugar consumption is in the form of refined granulated sugar. A smaller, but still significant share of the market is taken by speciality products, such as demerara, muscovado, caster, fondant, icing sugars and more.



retail sector

how demand is delivered

the domestic beet sugar industry

UK beet sugar production

British Sugar is the sole processor of UK sugar beet, supporting over 9,500 people in highly skilled jobs in a range of disciplines. They are delivering high quality sugar to over 50% of the UK and together with their growers, they’ve delivered a 26% increase in beet sugar yields in the past ten years.2

Supported by around 3,000 growers3, the domestically grown sugar beet is supplied to British Sugar and used to create over 27 different types of sugar, as well as products beyond sugar4. Their focus on efficiency is defined by their portfolio of products derived from sugar beet and a manufacturing process which means operating at just 200g of waste for every tonne of sugar produced.5

British Sugar has an appetite to innovate and diversify and has committed to reducing CO2 by 30% by 20306, by continuing to invest in energy reduction projects. Today their four advanced manufacturing plants, produce a wide range of products in addition to sugar, including highly efficient Combined Heat and Power plants generating some electricity for export to the grid, renewable transport fuel, renewable energy from anaerobic digestion, animal feed, horticulture product, liming products, and topsoil.7

By using cutting edge technologies, further decarbonising their supply chains, and seizing the commercial opportunities at home and abroad, British Sugar is playing an important part in supporting the food security and farming needs for Britain – right at the heart of a thriving rural economy in East Anglia and the East Midlands.


Domestic beet sugar farmers



supply 8 million tonnes of crop


yield increase over the past ten years2

Domestic beet sugar increase

Britain's sugar yields are comparable with the best performing global cane or beet industries and are higher than Brazil's




9,500 jobs



the refining sector

Sugar can be produced and traded both in its 'raw' and 'refined' formats.

raw sugar

The UK refining industry is supplied from raw sugar which has already been extracted from cane and partly processed in the originating countries’ cane mills. Raw sugar in this partly finished state is imported from a variety of cane sugar producing countries. The mix of raw sugar supplying countries changes from year to year depending on availability and commercial considerations, but typically include African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, Brazil and  Central American countries, which account for over 90% of imports8.

Following the UK’s exit from the EU in January 2021, the UK government introduced a tariff free quota (ATQ) allowing the import of raw cane sugar into the UK. This ATQ allows up to 260,000 tonnes of raw cane sugar to be imported tariff free annually, on the provision it is refined into white sugar. The impact of the ATQ is an increase of imports of raw cane sugar from Brazil. In 2021 there was a 164,000 tonnes year on year increase in raw sugar imports from Brazil with it contributing 49% of all raw sugar imports that year9. The majority of other imports are under duty free trade agreements UK-CARIFORUM, Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA SACUM-UK EPA), and UK-Central America. 

Currently, raw sugar supplies entering the UK are refined by T+L Sugars Ltd. (TLS) at their refinery in East London which has the potential installed capacity of 1.2 million tonnes annually10. TLS also operates a processing plant where it produces speciality sugar and syrup products11. TLS is owned by the American company, ASR Group International Inc.

refined sugar

Sugar can also be imported into the UK in the form of refined white sugar and other specialist finished products. As part of the 2006 sugar policy reform, import and refining practices were liberalised – most imports were previously restricted to raw sugar and reserved for full-time refiners. 

Following the removal of the EU quota system in 2017 and restrictions on the quantity of sugar beet that could be refined, it provided EU member states the opportunity to produce more sugar and to trade competitively in Europe and on the world market. Today, refined sugar imports into the UK vary year-on-year, but in general are in the region of between 18-31% of UK and ROI total demand. These imports mostly originate from the EU as beet sugar (over 90% imports of refined imports) but also include countries that refine cane sugar such as Mauritius and Brazil. 

the mix of
raw sugar
supplying countries changes year-to-year


and 2013

sugar policy


refined sugar

and refining
practices were

more refined

cane sugar


competition from cane suppliers who have redefined their industries


  1. Since 2012/13 campaign
  2. British Sugar, What we do.
  3. British Sugar, Co-products
  4. British Sugar, Sustainability - Case Study, Dec 2021
  5. British Sugar, Sustainability, Our approach
  6. British Sugar, Co-products
  1. British Sugar: A homegrown success story
  2. UK Eurostat imports/export data for the sugar years 2018/19, 2019/20, 2020/21
  3. UK Eurostat imports/export data for the sugar years 2018/19, 2019/20, 2020/21
  4. TLS website, 2022
  5. TLS website, 2022
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