Advanced manufacturing plants
Across our four factories we produce a lot more than just sugar. Our investments to date have enabled us to use as much as possible of our raw material - sugar beet - to diversify and build a successful portfolio of co-products that positively impact other industries.
We supply over half of the UK’s demand for sugar.
We support up to 7,000 UK jobs in the wider economy.
Together with NFU Sugar, we’ve helped improve beet sugar yields by more than 21% in the past 15 years.
We partner with over 2,300 growers.
We’re Involved with 7,000 different businesses.
We’ve invested £300 million in the past five years to make our four advanced manufacturing plants more efficient.
The factory at Bury St Edmunds started operations in 1924, and has been processing sugar beet grown in Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire ever since.
In 1972, Silver Spoon was established as British Sugar’s retail arm and is the branding that’s recognised on supermarket shelves today. During 1973, the Bury Sugar Beet Factory became the largest in Europe when two new silos were built.
In the summer of 2016, British Sugar completed the construction of a brand new £15m Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plant as part of an exciting new renewable energy business project at Bury St Edmunds.
Now fully operational, the plant produces energy in the form of electricity. While a small proportion is used to power the AD Plant, making it self-sufficient, the majority (up to 5MW) is being exported to the National Grid as clean renewable electricity.
Here at our advanced manufacturing plant in Bury St Edmunds over two million tonnes of sugar beet are produced by over 700 growers illustrating the crucial part we play in the local rural economy.
The growers who supply our factory here in Bury come from a range of different counties including Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. However the average distance between farm and the plant is only 28 miles.
We turn the 2 million tonnes of sugar beet in to 320,000 tonnes of quality sugar.
Cantley factory was the very first sugar processing factory in the UK and kick-started the birth of our British beet sugar industry. For over 100 years, the factory has been a landmark on the banks of the River Yare and is well known for the generations of local families who have worked alongside each other. The tradition of long service continues today and several of Cantley’s employees have worked at the factory for many, many years, providing the business with a wealth of experience.
More recently, in 2014, the Cantley Factory was once again in the public eye when nearly 270 tonnes of energy saving equipment was delivered via the River Yare.
Following collaboration between suppliers and companies all over Europe, the new equipment started its road, sea and river journey 470 miles away in Rotterdam. Crossing the North Sea on sea pontoons it was then joined by two river tugs at Great Yarmouth to continue down the River Yare. This final leg marked the first time in a generation that major equipment had been delivered to the Cantley factory by river.
Here at our advanced manufacturing plant in Cantley over one million tonnes of sugar beet are produced by over 700 growers illustrating the crucial role we play in the rural economy.
The growers who supply our factory mainly come from Norfolk and Suffolk and the average distance between farm and the plant is only 28 miles.
We turn 1.5 million tonnes of sugar beet in to 220,000 tonnes of quality sugar.
Newark Factory opened its doors in 1921 and is an ideal location for growers of sugar beet in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. Situated just beside the A1, it has excellent road links.
Over 100 years old, Newark, like its sister factories, has seen massive investment over the years which has turned it in to the advanced manufacturing plant it is today.
Most recently, Newark has increased the amount of storage space at its site, the 23m high and 50m wide steel structure, which is the largest across all the factories, can safely store an additional 60,000t of thick juice, sugar in its liquid form. This is the equivalent of 31,500 tonnes of bagged white sugar.
In 2014, our factory was proud to play host to David Cameron, when he visited Newark on the campaign trail. The visit was an opportunity for the Prime Minister to see British Sugar’s advanced and highly competitive food manufacturing facility, as well as meeting with engineers, technicians and apprentices from Newark.
Here at our advanced manufacturing plant in Newark over 1.6 million tonnes of sugar beet are produced by around 700 growers meaning we have a crucial part to play in the local rural economy.
The growers who supply our factory here in Newark come from a wide range of different counties including Lincolnshire, Humberside, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Leicestershire. However the average distance between farm and the plant is only 28 miles.
We turn this 1.6 million tonnes of sugar beet in to 235,000 tonnes of quality sugar
Towards the end of 1925, British Sugar opened the doors of its factory at Wissington for the first time. Back then the beet was delivered by rail and barge and the factory processed 600 tonnes per day. Over 90 years later the factory at Wissington is the largest and the most cost effective sugar processing site in Europe.
As with all its factories, British Sugar has made significant investments. In 2000, British Sugar built and opened a glasshouse powered by the heat generated by the factory’s Combined Heat and Power plant. Today, this glasshouse has grown to cover 18 hectares, the UK’s largest single glasshouse.
In 2007, Wissington also became the location of the first UK bioethanol plant, winning an award from the Renewable Energy Association for the best new project, in its first year of operation.
The plant can now produce up to 64,000 tonnes of bioethanol per year. Complex heat recovery systems minimise the energy demand of the plant. This ensures the plant achieves the low carbon footprint required to produce renewable biofuels.
Here at our advanced manufacturing plant in Wissington over three million tonnes of sugar beet is produced by over 1,000 growers illustrating the crucial part we play in the local rural economy.
The growers who supply our factory here at Wissington come from a range of counties including Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. However the average distance between farm and factory is only 28 miles.
We turn the 3 million tonnes of sugar beet in to over 400,000 tonnes of quality sugar & up to 75 million litres of ethanol.
About 4,800 tonnes of stones are received with the sugar beet crop every year. A proportion of these are recovered and graded, before being marketed for civil engineering, road-building and construction projects.
Each year, we receive around 200,000 tonnes of soil along with the eight million tonnes of sugar beet we purchase from UK growers.
This soil is recovered and marketed under the British Sugar brand TOPSOIL, the largest supplier of quality topsoil in the UK. Sold primarily into the landscaping and amenity industries, TOPSOIL’s range of products are ideal for shrub planting, seeding or turf laying and turf maintenance.
After extracting the sugar from sugar beet, the pulp is pressed to generate over 500,000 tonnes of high quality animal feed.
Supplied to the livestock industry by Trident Feeds, a subsidiary of British Sugar since 1985, this feed is produced in accordance with stringent feed assurance standards and provides a useful energy food for a wide range of livestock including, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and horses.
Our advanced manufacturing plants use a power generation system, producing both steam and electricity, called Combined Heat and Power (CHP), recognised as one of the most fuel-efficient processes available.
Coal, oil or gas fuel water boilers produce steam at high pressure which then drives turbo-alternators generating electricity to power our factories. The steam from the turbo-alternator is also used at various other stages of the sugar manufacturing process.
Excess electricity is sold to electricity supply companies. Developing this principle further, high performance combined cycle gas turbines have been installed at our Bury St Edmunds and Wissington factories, efficiently generating even more electricity for sale.
British Sugar is the largest supplier of liming products to UK agriculture. Each year approximately 300,000 tonnes of liming product is made at our factories as a co-product of the sugar manufacturing process and marketed under the LimeX brand.
LimeX provides a sustainable option to amend soil pH and increase available calcium. It significantly reduces the volume of limestone and chalk that would otherwise be quarried and crushed for agriculture and other lime markets, supporting the UK Government’s objective to encourage re-use of co-products.
In 2016, we invested £15 million in a new anaerobic digestion plant at our Bury St Edmunds site. Using the pressed sugar beet pulp that is produced alongside the sugar-making process, this enables us to break down microorganisms into biodegradable material, with one of the end products being biogas. Methane generated from the biogas is fed into a combined heat and power (CHP) plant, generating green electricity.
The plant is expected to use around 97,500 tonnes of pressed pulp each year and export 38GWh of electricity to the national grid, contributing to the UK’s renewable energy targets under the Renewable Energy Directive. In addition to electricity, the operation will also create digestate, which will be used in the local farming area for both soil conditioning and fertiliser replacement.
In 2007 we were the first company to manufacture bioethanol in the UK. With a business model built on using resource more efficiently and delivering responsible growth in the UK, we have since produced up to 75 million litres of bioethanol every year.
We’re able to trace the full life cycle of bioethanol, demonstrating the whole process of production, including crop growing, fermentation and distribution, to ensure genuine environmental benefits are delivered.
A blend of up to 5% bioethanol can be used in any unleaded car on the road in the UK today. In the longer-term, there is potential for ordinary cars to use higher blends. Some car manufacturers have already developed engines to operate on blends of up to 85% bioethanol, known as E85.
Partnering with Jazz Pharmaceuticals, British Sugar's horticultural business grows a key ingredient for the pharmaceutical company. Our glasshouses benefit from their location close to the sugar factory and more than 240 miles of piping carries hot water from the factory all year round to maintain temperatures that suit the plants. Other benefits include the use of carbon dioxide from the sugar factory which plants use during photosynthesis.
The ingredient is used in a new prescription medicine
The active ingredient, CBD, is sourced from a non-psychoactive variety of the cannabis plant family, specifically bred for medical purposes. We started growing these plants in January 2017. The crop will make a worthwhile contribution to the control of a debilitating childhood-onset disease. Annually, we will produce enough of this ingredient to treat thousands of children globally per year.
In partnership with Air Liquide UK, we re-opened the CO2 liquefaction plant at our Wissington site in 2023. The plant takes the waste CO2 produced during the fermentation process, known as biogenic, when one of our other co-products - bioethanol - is made from the residual syrups of the sugar production process. The CO2 is then purified and liquefied.
There is around 30,000 tonnes of biogenic CO2 produced annually, which is supplied via Air Liquide to customers across various industries, including food and beverage, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. This CO2 would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, so it’s an important step to help reduce waste from the end-to-end site operations even further.
The plant is one of the largest sources of Food Grade biogenic CO2 located in the UK, helping to increase the country’s domestic supply.