Packing sugar in western Nebraska

Pure Nebraska
Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 10:18 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Sugar beets are a big part of western Nebraska’s economy, and we visited Western Sugar Cooperative to see how the sugar is packaged for shipment.

We talked with Tom Briggs, who is the Western Sugar Warehouse Manager. “Our particular cooperative came into existence in 2002,” Briggs said. “Since then, we’ve been expanding. This year, we’ve purchased 1.4 million tons of beets. We will process that into about three million hundredweight of sugar.”

“We make 1 pound, 2 pound, 4 pound, 25 pound, 50 pound and occasionally 100 pound bags,” Briggs said. “We make dark brown, light brown and powdered sugar as well. We probably package for about 40 different companies, and we distribute nationwide. What the sugar does is, it comes in as a beet, and goes through the slicers, and then through the diffusers. What you do with the sugar beet is you take the liquid out of the beet. We run it through a purification process. Then it goes through the evaporation process, and we evaporate the water off, because a sugar beet is 80 percent liquid. Then we start making the liquid more and more dense, and by the time we are done, we have a solid. From there, we drop it into the centrifugal machines, and then it goes out into an area where it’s dried, cooled, and finally delivered to bins.”

When it comes to packaging at Western Sugar, it’s quite the process. “In the brown and powder room, we have poly bags that are formed on the machine,” Briggs said. “It welds a seal on the back, and on the top and bottom. The bag goes on a conveyor, it goes over a scale, and it goes through a metal detector before it’s put in the box, and stacked on a pallet. On our industrial line, it’s a 25 pound bag that’s open at the top. They dump 25 pounds in the bag, and it runs through a “sewing machine”. That sews the top shut, and it goes on a pallet. In another area, we run 2, 4 and 10 pound bags.” Briggs says there is also a unique machine made in Germany that makes its own bag. “Those bags go into a bailer, and then are wrapped, stacked, and sent into the warehouse,” Briggs said.

There is a lot going on at Western Sugar Cooperative and it’s interesting to note that some of the sugar you might have in your pantry, could likely have been produced and packaged in western Nebraska.

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