My initial guess was that refined sugar has to be the same no matter its provenance, but now I wonder if cane sugar has a different ratio of sucrose/glucose/fructose than beet sugar. Is there any reason why packages of refined sugar advertise 100% cane sugar?
White beet sugar and white cane sugar are virtually identical in composition, but there may be very small differences (~0.05%) which some cooks find affects caramelization. Reportedly, cane sugar will caramelize better than beet sugar in many cases.
The bigger difference is when you look at brown sugars. In beet sugar, molasses is added after refining to make the brown sugar, as the molasses that comes from beet sugar is not fit for human consumption. Cane sugar is simply a less-refined product where the molasses has been left in the product. So when baking with beet brown sugar, often the molasses hasn't fully penetrated the sugar granules and "rubs off".
They are both mostly sucrose, and they are very similar. But like anything else, there are many differences depending on your point of view. If you come from some parts of Europe you will be very familiar with it
The three main sugars of the world are beet, cane, and corn - depending on where you live. Corn is significantly different from beet and cane. See High fructose corn syrup for more sugar differences
I've noticed a difference in making up meringue for my pies using beet sugar vs. the cane sugar. Seems harder to both get those stiff peak and brown the meringue afterwards using beet granulated sugar than it is using granulated cane sugar.
Either way, I've done enough research now on this cane vs. beet and have come to the conclusion that I prefer cane sugar, and that if the package does not say cane, it is probably beet sugar.
Yes. There are some reasons.
- Commercial sugar beets used for beet sugar these days are genetically engineered.* A lot of people like to have 100% GMO-free food. Although they may be trying to get GMO cane sugar on the market, I don't believe it's a thing currently.
- The taste/smell. They do taste/smell different to some people, including me. I prefer cane sugar personally (but that's just my personal preference). This is a personal and social observation (not a scientifically studied one; so, a human capacity to smell sugar or sugar impurities would need to be validated by studies). Beet sugar is easier for me to identify than cane sugar (which has a very faint smell).
- Allergies. Some people may be allergic to sugar beets, but not sugar cane. If you're allergic to such as amaranth, then you may be allergic to beets, too, since they're related. (I don't tend to digest amaranth well, personally, but I don't think I'm allergic. Regular beets make me feel uneasy when I eat them—I love the way radishes, which are not closely related to beets/amaranth, make me feel, though. So, avoiding beet sugar just might be a little healthier for me in that regard—but maybe not. Whatever the case, it would be safer for a highly allergic person to avoid beet sugar.) I personally don't know that a dangerous sugar beet allergy exists, nor whether it affects what sugar you should eat (but, generally with allergies, being careful is a good idea). Allergy to sugar cane is another consideration here, though. Sugar cane is related to wheat and other grass family grains.
- Psychological reasons. I image others, such as myself, learned about sugar cane and how it's sweet raw, and then learned that sugar beets are totally not sweet until you process them into sugar. Thus, sugar cane seems more romantic (in the old sense), since you can relax and enjoy it fresh. Really, this doesn't impact the sugar, but if you're thinking about smelly sugar beet factories (I'm familiar with the smell) and non-sweet beets vs sweet canes you can taste right off the bat, you might be more inclined to choose 100% cane sugar.
- Some people care about what kind of work went into their food. I mean, they might want to know which industry profits from it.
I'm sure there are other reasons, too.
*It should be noted that people tend to claim that sugar from GMO sugar beets contains no GMOs, since they claim it's just sugar or some such. So, they may use that to get out of the GMO labeling argument (and some people may still want to avoid sugar derived from GMOs; so, the sugar cane labeling is useful in order for them to avoid such sugar).
I CAN smell the differences in the sugars- cane vs beet, when I open the bag, and after I measure out the sugar and allow it to set in an open measuring cup. Beet sugar to me smells like dirty feet. Cane sugar has very little smell. I can even tell the difference in the smell of, say sugar cookies- in cooking, as it were, if there is not a lot of scent added to the product. The TASTE is roughly the same, however. Its the dirty feet-smell I cant get past. I have a very sensitive nose, compared to most other folk. So, whether or not the body has receptors for Sugar-smell, it certainly CAN tell the difference. I am proof. But then. again, I can also smell coffee brweing in a home or cafe quite often as i drive down the freeway, too.