The Factory Commission had a full programme of 33 technical papers for oral presentation. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity for authors of the eight poster papers to provide oral overviews of their work because the usual time slots were allocated to panel discussions. The Commissioner and the Chair of the Processing Section also participated in the first scheduled Plenary during Congress.
Plenary – Sugar and Health told differently
Three invited speakers presented research and evidence-based information on the effects of sugar and artificial sweeteners on the health of consumers.
Ms Anna Denny, Director General, World Sugar Research Organisation UK, spoke about what the latest evidence tells us.
Science supports that sugars can be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet and active lifestyle. However, sensational and sometimes poor media reporting of science has led to rising consumer confusion and misunderstanding about the health effects of dietary carbohydrates, including dietary sugars.
The sugar alternatives and high intensity sweetener markets are forecast to grow. Yet consumer understanding of sugar alternatives, such as plant-based syrups and nectars, and low-calorie sweeteners, remains low. The recent Draft Opinion on non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) from the World Health Organization has cast further doubt on the efficacy of NSS as a means of achieving weight control or reducing risk of noncommunicable diseases.
Her talk summarized the current sugars and health landscape, including the relationship between energy intake and obesity-related non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity-related cancers. ‘Hot topics’ in sugars and health research were explored, including current research questions on ultra-processed foods, the gut microbiome and immune function. A brief overview of the global sugars and health policy landscape was also given.
It is important that the sugar industry possesses the expertise and skills set to understand and evaluate the global scientific evidence on sugar and health and, where appropriate, to communicate scientific consensus to consumers in an understandable format. Evidence-based, objective research into sugar and health, to address the knowledge gaps in this research field, is fundamental to ensuring sustainable businesses and healthy consumers and employees for the future.
Professor Julian Cooper, School of Chemistry, Food & Pharmacy, University of Reading spoke of the challenge of sugar reformulation with examples from the UK. The success in the reduction of sugar in soft drinks is seen as the template for ongoing reformulation and sugar reduction in the diet. However, his paper highlighted the multifunctionality of sugar and the challenges in replacing it to deliver reformulated food products that provide significant calorie reduction and consumer acceptance.
Professor Cooper identified the key issues with reformulation as being the increased numbers of ingredients, increased warnings on pack, insignificant changes to the energy content of products and a potential impact of food safety. In addition the product developer must ensure a similar taste to the original product and deliver it with little or no increase in price.
Consumers are demanding cleaner labels and wish to see ingredients that they recognise on labels. The use of multiple ingredients to replicate the multi-functional properties of sugars brings reformulation into conflict with consumer demands.
Research shows that consumers see sugar(s) as a proxy for calories and expect a similar reduction in calories if a reduced sugars claim is made on the pack which is not usually the case. The examples provided were primarily from the United Kingdom where reformulation has been well advanced and promoted for many years. The examples provided in his presentation were real food products that have been sold to consumers and highlighted the challenges in delivering reformulated products to provide sustainable products that meet consumers demands.
A single factorial approach ie sugars reformulation may not be the universal panacea for the obesity crisis and could lead to unintended consequences. Reformulation and stepwise reductions in sugars may not deliver a significant reduction in calories in many products and care must be taken to avoid the ‘halo effect’ where reduced sugars products are perceived as ‘healthier’ and overconsumed. A paradigm shift in reformulation is needed and a holistic approach to product development should aim to deliver lower calorie products where all ingredients deliver maximum impact at optimal levels.
Dr Gillian Eggleston, Department Head, Audubon Sugar Institute, LSU USA and Chair of the Factory Processing Section within the Factory Commission, presented the case for natural, nutritious, and functional sweeteners from sugarcane that meet new consumer demands.
Sucrose has been greatly scrutinized in the past decade mainly for its calories, even though sales have increased globally, and it remains the gold standard of sweeteners because of its multitude of functions that are difficult to replace and the most widely used sweetener. Ironically, the present and accelerating consumer-driven trend toward healthier, sustainably manufactured, and more natural foods, beverages, and ingredients has started to further redeem sucrose and less-refined sugars from sugarcane as natural sweeteners. Natural sweeteners, as compared to artificial and highly processed caloric sweeteners, are the least processed and contain a greater range and higher quantity of nutrients, including antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. Brown and golden sugars from sugarcane are having a huge growth as natural sweeteners. They include centrifuged and non-centrifuged cane sugars that are markedly less expensive, yet equally, if not more nutritious than other natural sweeteners, including solid sugars from coconut palm, honey, maple, date, stevia, and monk fruit. Dr Eggleston said that the global sugar industry needs to consider an educational or marketing campaign to educate consumers on these antioxidant-rich, less-processed sugars.
A key focus for several papers presented at Congress in both the Factory and Management commissions was sustainability of factories and the industry. Papers presented in the Factory Commission included the following:
- Sustainability in Indian sugar mills by adopting innovative and viable technologies by RA Chandgude, PG Patil and SR Khengare.
- The journey towards sustainable business through technological advancement and diversification into the downstream industry: a role model in the Pakistan sugar industry by Zahid Mahmood Qureshi and Ammar Ghazanfar.
- A new sugar complex designed to provide maximum raw material to a paper industry by S Awasthi, A Goyal and D Kumar.
- Engineering concept for combined refinery operations with cane sugar milling by Omkar P Thaval.
Bagasse, energy savings and sustainable factory operations while maximising the potential for spreading the income base through opportunities such as export power and co-products were the subject of eight papers including:
- Low-temperature bagasse applications for fuel saving and power export by S Wicht, B Morgenroth and H Singh Bola.
- Power generation in the Indian sugar industry using segregated urban dry waste as an auxiliary fuel by Dattaram M Raskar and Vikas V Kshirsagar.
- Costing steam and vapour bleeds in a cane sugar factory by KM Foxon.
- Experiences with low-temperature dryers in the cane sugar industry by T Kimmenauer and S Szymkiewicz.
- Evaporation and concentration at low temperatures using plate-type evaporators based on a mechanical vapour-recompression system by V Verma.
The first session on the second morning was devoted to extraction papers that included:
- Modelling the extraction performance of a diffuser station by Omkar P Thaval.
- Influence of two-roller mills in enhancing the efficiency of conventional milling tandems by Y Sakhardande, KP Vasanthan and A Bekwadkar.
- Implementation of a first-mill cane-feeding control strategy based on a cane-harvest system by J Calpa Pantoja, J David Montes, J Tierradentro and N Gil Zapata.
- Effect of imbibition water temperature on tandem mill extraction by LF Muñoz, A Orozco, JD Montes and J Sierra.
Many research and practical papers dealing with the back end of the factory (juice processing through to crystallisation and massecuite exhaustion) created much interest for delegates attending the congress including the following:
- Use of lamella clarifiers for juice and syrup clarification at a direct-white cane-sugar plant by Mullapudi Narendranath, and Tito Silva.
- Ceramic membrane filtration of sugarcane juice for high-quality sugar production: a review by Wenqing Liu and Kai Li, Changrong Shi and D Rackemann.
- Evaluation of rotary vacuum filter (RVF) and decanter- based mud-filter technologies by A Kesarwani, V K Baliyan and RK Moharana.
- D Rackemann and C Marasinghege presented two evaporation papers, Understanding and minimising the impacts of non-sucrose constituents of sugarcane juice on juice degradation during evaporation and Optimisation of pH for minimising juice degradation during evaporation.
- Impact of scale composition in evaporator cleaning efficiency by S Imbachi-Ordonez.
- An improved understanding of the operation of falling- film evaporators in cane sugar factories by A Lehnberger and OP Thaval.
- Degradation modelling of and optimising the timing of replacements for batch vacuum pans by A Horner, H Truong-Ba, ME Cholette and GA Kent.
- Automatic pan microscope measurement of sugar crystals and its utilization in real-time crystallization control by M Honkanen, H Eloranta, H Singh Bola, B Morgenroth and Naresh Saini.
- Experience with online optical crystal monitoring from the first two modern batch-pan automation projects in India by H Singh Bola, B Morgenroth2, N Saini and S Singh.
- Application of a hydrostatic transmission in cooling crystallisers by J Lewinski, M Fredriksson and M Enriquez Poy.
- Limiting the effects of the Maillard reaction during evaporative and cooling crystallisation of C massecuites by R Broadfoot and D Rackemann.
- In-house C massecuite reheater: a successful development for Le Gol sugar factory by J Rivière, M Cadarsi, JR Payet and C Roussel.
Finally, there were papers on issues with pol in cane juice and measurement techniques for cane fibre.
- How a clarification aid can affect polarimetric analysis of sugarcane juices by S Imbachi-Ordonez, M del Carmen Perez, A Mandalika and G Eggleston.
- A new approach to measuring the fibre content of sugarcane by C Shi, GA Kent and C Henderson.
- Implementation of a test to predict cane fiber characteristics during the milling process by JD Montes, JC Aristizabal, MA Gomez and N Gil Zapata.
The Emile Hugot Award for the best factory Commission paper went to Julien Rivière, Marc Cadarsi, Jean-Raymond Payet and Camille Roussel for their paper titled In-house C massecuite reheater: a successful development for Le Gol sugar factory.
The John Claton Award for the best Factory Commission poster went to Giovanna M. Aita and Young Hwan Moon for the poster titled Effect of cultivation conditions on extracellular polymeric substances production by microbial isolates from Louisiana’s crusher juice.
The make-up of the Engineering and processing sections of the Factory Commission for the period 2023 to 2025 can be found at issct.org/about-issct/governance/.