UK Beet Sugar Industry - a history
100 years of beet sugar industry logo
In 2012 the industry celebrated 100 years and we were proud to be part of this great British success story.

The beet sugar industry as we know it began in the early 1900s and the first factory, built in 1912, was our very own Cantley factory in Norfolk. That first harvest and factory ‘campaign’ began a remarkable partnership between agriculture and industry that has endured throughout the 20th century. 

agriculture over the years

During the 1920s, a further 17 factories were erected and until the 1930s, the crop was processed by 13 autonomous companies in 18 factories throughout the country.

In 1936, those factories were amalgamated by the Sugar Industry (Reorganisation) Act to form one organisation - the British Sugar Corporation – to manage the entire domestic crop; a development which marked a significant stage in the process of the UK beet sugar industry.

In 1972, ‘Silver Spoon’ was launched as the retail brand name of British Sugar selling caster, cubed and icing sugar, which you may have seen on your local supermarket shelf.

The Government remained a shareholder until 1981 when it sold its share. In 1982 the word ‘corporation’ was taken from the company name and the British Sugar Corporation became a Public Limited Company, trading as British Sugar. 

Associated British Foods bought British Sugar in 1991 and it still the parent company today.

Further developments included; the installation of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants in all of our factories, producing high pressure steam to drive turbines generating 95% of our factories needs; the construction of Cornerways nursery, which is now the UK’s largest single tomato glasshouse covering an area of 18 hectares and producing around 140 million tomatoes annually; and the UK’s first Bioethanol refinery at Wissington, all of which have further enhanced British Sugar in becoming the efficient and sustainable business we know today.

developments - cornerways nursery and CHP plant
Further information


To find out more about our great

British success story, download our Grown in Britain Made in Britian booklet published by British Sugar together with the National Farmers Union (NFU).

Outreach booklet cover

Learn more about the sugars you use that are grown and made in Britain with Silver Spoon.    

For an overview of how the UK Beet Sugar Industry is leading the way to a sustainable future, download the Industry’s Sustainability Report 2011, published by the NFU and British Sugar.

Sustainability report cover