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Table sugar, as the world knows it, is actually called sucrose by its scientific name. It is a simple carbohydrate composed of a glucose unit and a fructose unit. Glucose and fructose are simple sugars called monosaccharides. Since sucrose is composed of two monosaccharides, this makes it a disaccharide (meaning two saccharide units). The chemical composition of sucrose makes it an ideal tool in the food and beverage industry because of its complex functionality. 

A note about inversion 

Sucrose can be broken down into its monosaccharides – glucose and fructose – by heat or acidification. In its disaccharide form, sucrose cannot participate in browning reactions because the reactive ends of the glucose and fructose units are bound. Once broken, inverted sucrose can then participate in browning reactions. Invert sugar is used in a variety of baking and confectionery applications.

Source and Processing

Sucrose comes from a few different sources. Although it can be found throughout nature, the main sources are sugar beet and sugarcane. The general extraction process is:

Sugarcane: Extracted through crushing, juicing, and refining

Sugar beets: Extracted by slicing, diffusion, and crystallization

Main function in Confections

Sucrose is used in many places in the food industry for a variety of reasons. It is a great preservative. Sucrose lowers the water activity in food by binding up free water, preventing microorganisms from growing. 

Perhaps the most common use for sucrose is for sweetening purposes. Sucrose is the gold standard of sweetness and has a relative sweetness level of 100. Every other sweetener is compared to sucrose on this scale.  

Although sucrose is used for sweetening, it also functions as a bulking agent. When low sugar and no sugar formulas are made, stevia and other high potency sweeteners can be used to replace the sweetness lost by removing the sugar. However, these high potency sweeteners cannot replace the bulk lost by removing sugar. This must be replaced by something with substance, such as soluble vegetable fibers or sugar alcohols. In some candies, like gummies where the main structure is coming from the gelling agent, replacing sugar is easy. But in other candies, like fudge where sugar is the main structural component, replacing it is more difficult.

Molecular Structure

Sucrose Formula: C12H22O11

Common Name: Sucrose

Type of Sugar: Disaccharide

Composition: Composed of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose.


Sucrose has linear solubility, meaning as temperature increases, so does solubility in water. At room temperature, 1 pound of water will dissolve 2 pounds of sugar. At boiling point, 1 pound of water will dissolve 4 pounds of sugar. The texture of candy is dependent on the concentration of sugar to water at given temperatures. This is where the traditional candy-making thermometers come into play – soft ball, firm ball, hard ball, soft crack, hard crack, and caramelized stages.

The structure of a candy is determined by whether sucrose is allowed to crystallize. Crystallization is a process whereby solid crystals are formed from another phase, typically a liquid solution or melt. The crystallization of sucrose occurs when sugar is dissolved into water, making a supersaturated solution. As the solution cools, crystals form and can vary in size.

As a result of this crystallization, candy is separated into two categories: crystalline and amorphous (non-crystalline). Crystalline candies require the controlled formation of sugar crystals. This is typically controlled during the process of making the candy, allowing either large crystals to form (i.e., rock candy) or small crystals to form (i.e., fudge, fondant, divinity, marshmallows). Amorphous candies, on the other hand, are when crystals are discouraged to form in the process, often by crystallization inhibitors such as corn syrup. These candies include peanut brittle, lollipops, caramel, and toffee.


FDA Status: Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).

Nutritional Labeling: Listed under Total Sugars on food labels.

Recommended Intake: Dietary guidelines recommend limiting added sugars, including sucrose.

Labeling Requirements: Specific regulations for claims related to sugar content.

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