Michigan Sugar Company announced on Tuesday, Aug. 24, that they would be investing $65 million to construct a desugarization plant at the company’s Bay City factory.
The new facility will allow the company to produce 80 million additional pounds of pure sugar annually from molasses that acts as a byproduct of the process through which sugar is extracted from sugarbeets — an impressive feat considering the company will not being planting any additional acres of sugarbeets.
The new facility will allow the company to extract additional sugar from 100% of its molasses, a much higher percentage than than the company’s current 60% extraction rate from molasses.
“Our project also ensures a significant volume in our 'farm-to-table' and Certified Vegan sugar supply through agricultural and food production sustainability improvements, in addition to creating important scale-up efficiencies that will consistently increase domestic sugar production in Michigan for many, many years to come," said Pedro L. Figueroa, Michigan Sugar Company's vice president of sales and marketing.
Michigan Sugar Company is the third largest of nine sugarbeet processing companies in the United States, and Michigan is one of 11 states where sugarbeets are grown in the country.
The building process is set to begin this fall and is expected to take between 18 to 24 months to complete. Currently, the facility processes about 325 tons of molasses a day. After the build is completed and operational, the company expects to process as much as 650 tons of molasses daily.
"This enormous undertaking, investment, and commitment by our grower-owners will have a multi-generational impact for our cooperative," said Mark S. Flegenheimer, President and CEO of the company, which was founded in 1906 and became a grower owned cooperative in 2002. "This is a historic day for our owners, our employees, our customers and our community.”
Flegenheimer also added that sugarbeet growers in the cooperative could expect to see impressive revenue growth in years to come due to their new venture.
"Simply put, we can sell sugar at a higher price than we sell molasses," he said. "Our nearly 900 grower-owners will see added annual revenue of $10 million to $15 million, in perpetuity.”