Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Vegan Cane Sugar

By Jessica Johnson, September 16, 2008  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Jessica Johnson

If you aren’t on a vegan diet, chances are you didn’t know that all sugar isn’t considered vegan. It doesn’t come from an animal so what’s the issue? Bone char. Bet you didn’t know that many sugars are processed with bone char either. Bone char, usually made from the bones of cows, is used in the decolorization process for sugar – meaning it whitens the sugar through a filtration process. Standard sugar packages won't explain all of this, but the process is unacceptable to many vegans and they avoid sugar as a result. But that may be about to change when all the vegans out there find out about our 365 Everyday Value® Vegan Cane Sugar (which retails for about $4 for a 4-pound bag). Our vegan sugar goes through a 100% animal-free carbon deactivation process to decolorize. This carbon is a mineral and therefore, a non-animal source. Great news, right?

And we didn’t stop there…our vegan sugar is also part of our Whole Trade Guarantee. Read on to see why this sugar may be a perfect choice for non-vegans too! Any product with the Whole Trade Guarantee must meet all four of these criteria:

  • Meet our high quality standards
  • Provide more money to producers
  • Ensure better wages and working conditions for workers
  • Care for the environment

To sweeten the deal, we also donate 1% of all Whole Trade product sales to the Whole Planet Foundation, whose mission is poverty alleviation through microcredit in communities around the world that supply Whole Foods Market stores with products.

Our vegan sugar is grown and processed in Belize and the communities there are directly impacted by the sale of this sugar because every purchase of Whole Trade products helps fund projects such as new community centers, schools and homes for real people. The Whole Trade premiums paid to Belize sugar farmers have increased their income too. So, the next time you buy sugar think about the impact your $4 purchase can help make — even if you don't follow a vegan diet.

Category: Whole Trade




Maria Gomez says ...
I've bought and used the granulated sugar and I love it. I have had a problem locating powdered sugar that indicates it is vegan safe. I love to bake and finally found a buttercream icing substitute that works well, but it demands powered sugar. Can you help?
10/22/2008 2:43:54 PM CDT
hsiaw says ...
@Maria Hi Maria! I checked in with our Private Label team and I can confirm that in fact all of our 365 Everyday Value and 365 Organic Sugars are vegan. This includes our powdered sugar as well as our organic brown sugar. Hope this answers your concerns and happy baking!
10/22/2008 3:23:39 PM CDT
Christine says ...
Great product!
09/16/2008 9:48:09 AM CDT
Jeff Turnas says ...
When will this be organic?
09/16/2008 11:30:25 AM CDT
johnsonj says ...
Hi Jeff, Thanks for your comment. I will definitely explore this products Organic opportunity with our Private Label Category Manager and Product Manager.
09/16/2008 2:43:32 PM CDT
Caryn Hasslocher says ...
Hi Jessica Thank You for the information on 365 Sugar.Another reason to purchase from Whole Foods and the support the Whole Trade Mission.
09/16/2008 5:50:29 PM CDT
johnsonj says ...
All of 365 Sugar Cane products are guaranteed GMO-Free. In fact, no sugar cane in the world as yet is being cultivated using Genetically Modified technology. There is however rumors it will start in Brazil possibly next year for sugar cane that is used for ethanol production. The problem here in the U.S. with regard to Sugar Beets is that Genetically Modified Beets and Non-Genetically Modified Beets are being mixed together, therefore this year’s U.S. Sugar Beets crop cannot be guaranteed GMO-Free. Let me know if you have any further questions. Thanks for your comments, you posed great questions.
09/19/2008 8:59:38 AM CDT
Heidi says ...
Is it grown without GM seeds? Are all your products grown GM free? I've been doing a little research and was shocked to find out that this year is the first year of the GM sugar beet and that the FDA won't be tracking this? Do you have organic alternative sources for sugar? Are your corn products GM free also? Thanks.. glad to have found your website.
09/17/2008 7:03:58 PM CDT
Justgottaloveit says ...
I knew about the bone char because I was doing some reading on kosher products, etc. I don't practice kosher but understanding why some things are done is very enlightening, huh!
09/17/2008 7:26:34 PM CDT
hsiaw says ...
@Louise We offer a case discount in many of our stores. Check with your local store to see what theirs is: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores.
09/22/2008 10:38:17 AM CDT
Louise Williams says ...
Can this sugar be purchased in bulk? If so where and for h ow much?
09/20/2008 9:24:41 AM CDT
txgypsywoman says ...
Wow! Thanks for that information. I am the coffee bar specialist at the Forest store in Dallas. We use the Vegan sugar at our bar, and the question often comes up when people see the bag - "isn't all sugar vegan?" I never had an answer for them before, but I do now. Thank you so much!
09/17/2008 2:48:45 PM CDT
FFB says ...
Whoa, major ick!! I was never aware that cow was used to make sugar! I've recently been more aware of the food I'm putting in me and this is great info to know! BTW, I'm loving Whole Foods 365 products! Thanks!
09/16/2008 10:11:53 AM CDT
baranfarhangrocks! says ...
Hi, Jessica! I loved your facts about this vegan cane sugar! I'm not a vegan, but I am pretty disgusted that they use the cow's bone char! Blech! I can just be a child, in all, but I'm pretty smart myself, not to brag or anything. So, um, do you think these are good for kids, because I am dying to try sugar canes, they seem quite delightful! Thanks!!!!!!
11/09/2008 10:45:22 AM CST
Jenny says ...
Did I overlook this - sorry if I did - are you saying that none of Whole Foods 365 brand products use bone char processed sugar? I am thinking in particular of the chocolate chips that just say "sugar" on the package. THANKS!
12/26/2008 6:03:55 PM CST
hsiaw says ...
@Jenny Our 365 brand sugars do not contain bone char processed sugar, but for our other 365 products may. I will check with our Private Label team to see if they can get an answer about the kind of sugar used in our chocolate chips. Thanks.
12/26/2008 6:18:09 PM CST
Suzanne says ...
Hi, I have another question about the 365 powdered sugar. I realize it is not being processed using bone char, but how is it being refined? Does it go through the same refining process that conventional powdered sugar goes through, such as Domino? Or is it refined in a more wholesome way? We are trying to avoid refined sugar altogether, but there doesn't seem to be a good alternative to confectioner's/powderd sugar anywhere and we occassionally have to make a frosting for a cake. Is your powdered (vegan) sugar my best option?
01/02/2009 1:33:39 AM CST
Ivy says ...
I bought some of this sugar and tried baking with it. I made baked rice (with a 1:1 ratio) and the product didn't seem as sweet. I then just am making a apple pie for my dad's birthday. The recipe was amazing the first time. This time I used this sugar in the carmel sauce and it was kind of strange. Almost like the butter wouldn't mix in with the sugar. Anyone else had any trouble getting recipes to turn out the same? I usually use a natural sugar like turbinado, fair trade sugar or sucanat.
01/27/2009 8:47:33 PM CST
Marc says ...
Glad to see a first in an attempt to stop using bone char - good move by Whole Foods. Have been purchasing turbinado in bulk for many years and then saw the vegan sugar in the store the other day. One comment I did have... there is nothing on the packaging to indicate as to why it is Vegan. Veg*an folks read labels constantly and are rather untrusting of food products that say they're veg when, in fact they are sometimes "marginally" veg and not acceptable to many vegans. Putting a comment on the bag to indicate that no bone char is used would really help us veg folks make a snap decision to put it in the cart rather than hunt down a page on the net with more detail prior to buying it! Just a suggestion... but is still awesome to see that WF is offering it. Thx!
04/12/2009 6:52:09 AM CDT
Viv says ...
Ivy, Regarding problems baking with it: I just finished making the caramel for a flan I was baking (in bain marie) today and had difficulties using this sugar. I normally use superfine or even refined sugar for the caramel but have wanted to move away from those sugars and to go organic and cane sugar instead. Well, when I put the sugar in the stainless steel pan to make the caramel the sugar wouldn't melt as fast or as well. It felt wet and it created lots of popping sounds and lumps. It took a lot of elbow grease and care to be able to dissolve the sugar and turn it into caramel using as high heat as possible without turning the caramel too dark or even worse, too bitter. This was my first experience baking with it. I'm sharing this flan with friends and family and now I find myself crossing fingers that it comes out okay. I'll try turbinado next. I'll report back. PS: This might just be one of those products that are great for sweetening drinks and coffee and so on but not for baking. It happens.
04/23/2009 6:11:31 PM CDT
Chelsea Anderson says ...
I just made my favorite vegan chocolate chip cookies with this sugar and they didn't turn out right. They cooked WAY faster than usual (crispy/burnt in 10 minutes when they usually need about 12) and aren't nearly as sweet. I'm thinking of throwing all the sugar (and probably the cookies) out and starting over.
05/14/2009 10:51:18 PM CDT
Gabriela says ...
Hi, I have the same question as Jeff, how come it is not organic? I bought a package and didn't notice until i got home. I don't want to return it since the Whole Trade and Vegan aspects are still worth the buy but I am wondering what is the difference between the way it is grown at the moment and the way it would be grown if it was organic. Because of liver issues I am eating all organic and avoiding pesticides, so I would like to know if there are some remains in this sugar so I know if to keep it or give it as a present to some vegan friend. Thanks. :)
06/01/2009 3:36:48 PM CDT
Renee Mann says ...
I noticed a "strange" taste to this vegan cane sugar. Am I the only one?
07/27/2009 10:38:09 AM CDT
hsofia says ...
So I don't understand why the vegan sugar would cook differently than non vegan sugar ... this is what I'm curious about after reading some of the comments below. Any thoughts, information?
12/04/2009 6:21:28 PM CST
Jenn says ...
Thank you so much I'm new to being a vegan and I'm learning so much. I never would have thought that sugar would use animals
03/08/2010 8:49:55 AM CST