Sugar is one of the foods we’re particularly concerned about here at Just Kai. Forced labour and/or child labour is used in many of the countries that export sugar, including Brazil, the world’s largest exporter. In addition, many of the wealthy sugar-growing countries, including the EU and the US, artificially subsidise their sugar industries. This drives down prices for poorer farmers elsewhere, leading to cost-cutting practises like child labour, forced labour and unsafe working conditions.
One way to avoid supporting this is to look for any of the following three certification marks when you buy either actual sugar, or sugary products like ice cream.
Another way is to look for Australian sugar. The Australian sugar industry isn’t completely without ethical issues (especially historically), but working conditions are basically safe and child and forced labour is unknown. In addition, unlike the US and the EU, the Australian sugar industry isn’t protected by either subsidies or tarifs, so it isn’t artificially contributing to the problem of low prices elsewhere.
Australia runs a ’Product of Australia’ scheme, with a range of related logos:
If you see a sugary product marked with the logo and the first set of words “Product of Australia” (such as Countdown’s own brand sweetened condensed milk), you know that all the ingredients in it (including the sugar) were fully grown and processed in Australia. You can buy that with confidence.
The second variant, with the words “Grown in Australia”, is used for things where all the ingredients were grown in Australia. You’re unlikely to see this on sugary products (as they include ingredients that aren’t grown, as such) but may see it on actual sugar.
The third one is the one you’ll see most commonly. It has the words “Made in Australia from at least x% Australian ingredients”. Nesquik chocolate milk powder, for example, is labelled as being made from at least 80% Australian ingredients:
This can be harder to interpret. You want a product made with Australian sugar, but it’s telling you the percentage of ingredients that come from Australia, not which particular ingredients are from there.
However, as you likely know, the ingredients in the product are listed in order from the one that there’s the most of to the one that there’s the least of. So, if sugar is one of the first few ingredients on the list, it’s percentage will be quite high. And, if the percentage of Australian ingredients is high, at least the first ingredient and likely the next few are Australian. When it comes to Nesquik powder, sugar is the very first ingredient, so we can safely conclude it’s Australian. There’s no other way 80% of the ingredients could possibly be Australian.
Sometimes you’ll see a product that’s only 60% Australian ingredients; I’ve even seen one that was only 10%. For things like that (or things where sugar is only a minor ingredient), you can’t really be confident where the sugar comes from. But when the percentage is high and sugar is a major ingredient, it’s safe to assume the sugar is from Australia.
It seems Australian sugar is used really widely! Below is a list of products we’ve seen. If you see more, please contact us and we’ll update the list!
Taste of Greece Turkish delight
Nesquik cereals and powders
Milo cereals, protein clusters, powders and ready-to-drink products
Uncle Tobys quick oat sachets
Passage Foods sauces
Note that, to our knowledge, none of these products have made any commitment to always use Australian sugar. Please always check the certification mark to make sure they’re still displaying a high percentage. When we first looked at ‘Made in Australia’ labels, it was clear Kelloggs were using Australian sugar. When we recently bought a new box of cereal, we noticed this had changed - the percentage was much lower than it used to be and it seemed unlikely the sugar was still Australian. So please do check every time!
Lastly, Bundaberg ginger beer also claims to be made from Australian sugar, although they don’t carry the logo.