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Inside a Sucro refinery, a bank of centrifuges spin impurities (including molasses) and water away from the sugar crystals at speeds over 1000 RPMsupplied

Canada’s refined sugar industry had a reputation for being staid, perhaps even sleepy.

Then, in 2014, upstart Sucro Can opened a liquid sugar plant in Hamilton, upgrading to a full granular sugar refinery in 2019. It was the first successful new refinery built on Canadian soil since 1958, when Redpath opened one in Toronto. Prior to that, Lantic’s two sugar refineries — in Vancouver and Montreal — had been built in the late-1800s and remain operational today.

Success came quickly for Sucro, and expansion soon followed. After proving the viability of its two new refineries — a second in Lackawanna, N.Y. opened recently — Sucro’s founder and CEO Jonathan Taylor saw the opportunity to build a large-scale refinery from scratch. Boasting significantly more capacity and innovation than its first, Sucro’s new build is poised to be the largest sugar refinery by production capacity in Canada.

“We are very excited to announce the largest sugar refinery project in Canada, and a further step in the dynamic growth of Sucro,” Taylor says. “Through our commitment to innovation and investment, Sucro’s growth has been fully supported by its customers, who value our added product and service options.”

The new refinery is expected to cost up to $100-million and eventually produce up to one million metric tonnes (MT) of refined sugar annually. It will break ground later this year on a greenfield site in southern Ontario. Taylor says the refinery expects to begin operations in 2025.

“When we first started in 2014, we never envisioned how much the business would grow and how quickly we’d outgrow what we had established,” adds Taylor, attributing phenomenal customer support, market growth and accelerating demand for refined sugar for the success.

Focus on sustainable growth

Ontario’s food-and-beverage manufacturing sector is the third largest in North America, with revenues topping $44-billion. Establishing Sucro’s mega refinery in southern Ontario ensures local, reliable and efficient access to its customers in a way that reduces costs and is more sustainable.

“Our customers are anxious to see a more vibrant, competitive marketplace,” Sucro Chairman Don Hill says. “Market growth has been approximately 50,000 MT a year, which adds up quickly, and there are always export opportunities (for goods containing sugar). Across North America, sugar refining capacity is extremely limited and we see many opportunities, not only in Canada, but also potentially significant sugar exports to the United States.”

Another refiner in Canada recently announced its intention to add 100,000 MT refining capacity to its Montreal refinery at a cost of $160-million. How is Sucro able to add up to 10 times that capacity for almost half the cost?

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Two vacuum pans inside a Sucro refinery are used to boil sugar syrups under vacuum as part of the crystallization process.supplied

Efficiency and lean operations have always been foundational to Sucro’s growth. “I work directly with the refinery process and design engineers, sub-contractors and equipment suppliers, and we continually focus on controlling costs,” Taylor says. “We’re not a big company with many layers of staff that bloats the cost of a project, and we are very hands on. The comparatively low project costs also mean we can be very patient as the growing sugar demand gradually leads to the full million MT capacity being filled.”

What’s more, innovative procurement means that Sucro pays much less than the cost of purchasing the same goods from advanced industrialized countries.

Why now?

Legacy sectors can be slow to change, making them ripe for disruption by nimble companies hungry for opportunity.

“There aren’t many established industries where you have a young, small upstart that grows so quickly over just a few years into a viable No. 3 competitor, and then seizes the initiative to invest in what will be the industry leading sugar refinery,” Hill says. “Wherever there are market growth opportunities, we’ll absorb those because we will be the ones with the available capacity.”

“Food manufacturing customers in both Canada and the United States have been starved of sugar industry innovation and added capacity for years, and are extremely supportive of Sucro’s growth agenda,” says Taylor. “No other sugar refiner in North America is providing customers the kind of supply chain options and competition that Sucro delivers.”

“In the 21st century, we are the only company in North America to have built two refineries and this new refinery build will be our third,” he adds. “This is probably the biggest Canadian sugar-related announcement in the past 50 years.”

Official Press Release

Sucro Can is an affiliated company of Sucro Can Sourcing LLC, which was founded, in 2014, and is a sugar supply chain partner for mills, processors, distributors and food/beverage manufacturers, and has operations in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America.

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Sucro. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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