Redpath Sugars has been a part of Canadian family traditions since its beginnings in 1852. For more than 50 years the Redpath refinery has been a familiar sight on the Toronto waterfront and for over a century before that was a fixture along the Lachine Canal in Montreal.
Redpath Sugars produces a number of packaged products. White sugar products include granulated white sugar, icing sugar, and instant dissolving sugar (sugar with smaller granules for dissolving in beverages and adding to fresh fruit). Brown sugar products include golden yellow sugar, dark brown sugar and Demerara style sugar. Other products include cube sugar, Turbinado sugar (boiled directly from concentrated cane sugar), quickset for making jam, and blended cinnamon and sugar.
Changing consumer tastes have led the Company to innovate. Redpath Sugars now produces organic white, brown and icing sugars, which are made from organically grown sugar cane. Packaging innovation includes the use of recyclable, closable containers, an alternative to the traditional pouches and bags, and a sugar shaker container which holds the Company’s blended cinnamon and sugar product.
In addition to consumer use, the Company’s refined sugar is used by professional bakers and is required by food and drink manufacturers as an input in their products.
Raw sugar is shipped to Toronto on ocean-going vessels from sugar cane growers in tropical countries. By the time it is shipped initial processing has taken place to separate the sugar cane liquid from the rest of the plant and to extract raw sugar crystals from the sugar cane liquid.
The Toronto facility focuses on sugar refining, which is the process of impurity removal and decolourization. Refining is done in Canada because refined sugar is difficult and therefore expensive to ship over very long distances in international markets.
To start the refining process, the sugar crystals are mixed with a warm sugar syrup; the mixture is separated into sugar crystals and impurities by means of a centrifuge. These steps are known as affination and remove plant residues which coat the sugar crystals. Next, the sugar syrup is mixed with chalk particles and then filtered to remove additional residues, which attach themselves to the chalk and are filtered out while the sugar syrup passes through. Further filtering methods remove any remaining waxes. By this time the sugar has been completely liquefied into the form of sugar syrup.
Next, the sugar syrup is boiled until the conditions for growing crystals are present. At this time fine sugar dust is added and crystals begin to grow. The mixture is then separated into its sugar crystal and liquid components, the sugar crystals undergo further drying with hot air, and the sugar crystals are then ready for packaging.
In Belleville, Ontario, Redpath Sugars operates a facility which blends and packages brand name sweetened products such as iced tea, hot chocolate and milk powders. These products are manufactured under contract to the global corporations which own those brand names. The facility also blends and packages products for retail chains under private labels which are the property of those retail chains.
Redpath Sugars began its history as the Canada Sugar Refinery in Montreal in 1854 when it was founded by John Redpath, who had immigrated to Canada many years before from Scotland and had firmly established himself in the local construction industry through his hard work and business acumen. The original refinery building, the lower floors of which have been retained to this day, was constructed on the bank of the Lachine Canal and used sugar cane imported from the British West Indies as its raw material.
In 1857 John Redpath’s eldest son Peter became a partner in the company, which then took the name John Redpath and Son. George Alexander Drummond, the husband of John Redpath’s daughter Helen, joined the company in 1861. John Redpath himself ended all active involvement in company management early in 1868 at the age of 71, and passed away the following year.
Under the able management of George Drummond, the company weathered difficult business conditions during the 1860’s and 1870’s. The American Civil War (1861-1865) threatened to disrupt sea shipping routes from the Caribbean and greatly increased the cost of insuring cargos. In the 1870’s high import duties were placed upon raw sugar and high tariffs were placed upon refined sugar while the favourable treatment accorded U.S. refiners by the American government made the refined sugar of the U.S. refiners highly competitive in Canada. These factors caused the company to operate at a loss for certain periods, and even suspend production in the late 1870’s for a period of more than two years. A change in government in 1878 led to changes in tariffs and duties which allowed sugar refining in Canada to become profitable again.
In 1879 the company was reorganized under the name Canada Sugar Refining Company Limited. George Drummond became President of the reorganized company, which became publicly traded. The Redpath family maintained a controlling interest in the company, although Peter Redpath retired from active management.
The Montreal refinery underwent numerous changes. In 1871 a new six storey plant was constructed adjacent to the original building, doubling total plant capacity. Further significant renovations and additions would be made to plant buildings over the following 50 years both by George Drummond and by his son Huntly R. Drummond, who succeeded his father at his death in 1910.
From the beginning of the First World War in 1914 until well after the war’s conclusion, the entire Canadian sugar industry was under the direct control of the government due to its importance to the wartime economy. As a result of this period of control, the company suffered financial losses which continued to have a negative impact on the company throughout the 1920’s. As a way of strengthening the company financially, a merger was carried out with a competing company, Ontario-based Dominion Sugar Company Limited, in 1930. The merged company adopted the new name Canada and Dominion Sugar Company Limited. C.H. Houson, President of Dominion Sugar, became President of the merged company, while Huntly Drummond became Vice President.
The merged business consisted of the Montreal refinery, which used cane sugar as its raw material, and the Dominion Sugar Company’s Wallaceburg and Chatham plants, which used locally grown beet sugar as its raw material. In 1940 the Chatham plant began refining sugar from cane sugar.
As in the First World War, the Canadian sugar industry was placed under direct government control at the advent of the Second World War. Control continued until 1947.
During the following years company management decided both to modernize the Montreal refinery, which had not received significant capital investment during the war, and to construct a new refinery in Toronto. The Toronto plant would use cane sugar in its operations.
Logistically, the Toronto refinery was justified by the impending construction of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which would allow ocean-going vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.
Construction of the refinery began in the Spring of 1957 and first production commenced in May 1959. On June 29, 1959 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and H.R.H. Prince Philip officially opened the completed sugar refinery. Three days earlier they had taken part in the official opening of the Seaway.
Also in 1959 Tate & Lyle acquired a 51% interest in Canada and Dominion Sugar Company Limited and thereby strengthened the company financially and bolstered the company’s ability to invest in its operations.
The opening of the Toronto refinery led to the closing of the Chatham refinery in 1960. The company had also decided to wind down beet sugar operations and the Wallaceburg plant was closed in 1968.
In 1973 the company underwent a change of name, to Redpath Industries Limited.
In early 1980, as a result of an ongoing economic downturn in Canada, the company made the decision to close its Montreal refinery. Warehousing and other logistical activities continued in Montreal, even after the sale of the original refinery property in 1985.
In May 1989 Tate & Lyle PLC, headquartered in London, England, acquired Redpath Industries Limited.
In 1996 Tate & Lyle PLC acquired R.W. Patten Distributors Ltd., a major producer of dry blend products. This acquisition included R.W. Patten’s Niagara Falls plant, which then became part of the operations of Redpath Industries Limited. The next year the Toronto refinery underwent an expansion and modernization which substantially increased production capacity.
During 1998 Redpath Industries Limited changed its name to Tate & Lyle North American Sugars Ltd. to reflect its ownership.
In April 2007 a new chapter of the company's history began when it was acquired from Tate & Lyle PLC by American Sugar Refining, Inc. and renamed Redpath Sugar Ltd. American Sugar Refining is a major cane sugar refiner which produces specialty and organic sugar, rice, malt and molasses-based sweeteners. As a result of the acquisition, Redpath Sugars became a sister company to Domino Sugar, a major American refiner which had been acquired by American Sugar Refining in 2001, and to C&H Sugar, which is located in California.
Streamline Foods, Inc. and its Canadian subsidiary Streamline Foods Ltd. were acquired by American Sugar Refining and Redpath Sugar in July 2012. The acquisition added Streamline Foods' 135,000 square foot blending and packaging facility in Belleville, Ontario to Redpath Sugar's operations. In May 2014 operations at the Niagara Falls and Belleville plants were consolidated in Belleville.
Those attending community events in Southern Ontario may be familiar with Redpath Sugars’ Acts of Sweetness truck and ambassadors. Through the touring ambassadors, a website (actsofsweetness.com), Facebook, flickr, and twitter, among other approaches, Acts of Sweetness reaches out to people to introduce them to the world of baked desserts and other sweet treats, and to display plenty of community spirit.