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State of Sugar Prices: Wholesale Restaurant Food Cost Trends

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Justin GuinnAuthor

Cafes and bakeries may keep a closer eye on wholesale restaurant sugar prices than other restaurant types. 

Sugar prices can have long, expansive knock-on impacts to tons of other restaurant ingredient prices. All operations are susceptible to fluctuations in sugar prices.

Regardless of your restaurant type or sugar usage, monitoring the restaurant supply chain can help operators forecast price fluctuations, plan their ingredient costs, and set strategic menu prices.

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Toast is the point of sale system built for restaurants.

We're able to calculate the average monthly prices that eating establishments pay for sugar by using proprietary data from xtraCHEF by Toast, our invoice automation and recipe costing tool.

The average national price that restaurants paid for a pound of sugar is $1.29 in August.

Here's a breakdown of historical data on wholesale restaurant sugar prices in the last year:

Restaurant sugar prices have been steady over the past year — fluctuating no more than 3% month-over-month in either direction.

Here's a breakdown of recent month-over-month fluctuations in the price of sugar for restaurants:

Commodities experts weigh in on sugar prices

We were able to speak with some experts in the food commodities space to understand their analysis on sugar price trends and the impact on restaurants. 

Question

What’s been influencing sugar prices and how should restaurant owners expect wholesale sugar prices to trend into 2024?

In the U.S., production is always impacted in one region or another due to weather, such as freeze, heavy rains and hurricanes. This affects growth and sugar content in the cane or beets harvested. Given the current projection of lower global production, coupled with declining global stocks due to increased consumption, the current sugar market remains fairly unsettled as current futures prices for both domestic raw sugar (#16) and world raw sugar (#11) are currently trading 17% and 45% higher, respectively, than one year ago.

David Branch 1
David Branch
Wells Fargo Agri-Food Institute

Common ingredients that have tons of sugar

Sugar is commonly added to various food products to enhance flavor, texture, and shelf life. 

Many processed foods, including breakfast cereals, granola bars, and snack foods, contain high amounts of sugar. Sauces, dressings, and condiments, such as ketchup and barbecue sauce, are also often packed with sugar. 

Sweetened beverages, such as soda, energy drinks, and fruit juices, have a significant amount of sugar that can contribute to excessive sugar consumption.

Tracing the origins of global sugar exports and the U.S. sugar supply

Sugar production is concentrated in several regions across the globe and is heavily influenced by factors such as soil quality, climate conditions, and government policies. 

The major sugar-producing countries include Brazil, India, China, Mexico, and Thailand. 

The United States also produces sugar, though it lags behind these other countries. The U.S. sugar market is largely protected from foreign competition through import quotas and tariffs.

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See insights from real restaurant operators which can help you benchmark your current and planned restaurant technology stack against your peers as we head into 2024 and beyond.

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Common factors and forecasts that impact the price of sugar

Sugar prices are influenced by factors such as global supply and demand, weather conditions, crop yields, and oil prices, since transportation is a significant expense for sugar producers. 

In addition, the shift towards alternative sweeteners like corn syrup and fructose can also impact sugar consumption and prices. 

Forecasting future sugar prices can be complex and challenging, but assessing factors such as crop forecasts, geopolitical tensions, and government policies are crucial to understanding the future price trends. 

Ultimately, restaurant owners and operators must stay vigilant and make adjustments in response to fluctuating sugar prices to ensure the profitability and sustainability of their businesses.

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Use this guide to learn more about your restaurant invoices, the value within, and how to consistently and accurately tap into it to make smarter decisions.

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Start tracking sugar prices today

There’s nothing sweet about high prices of sugar. That’s why restaurateurs should consider having a strong back-of-house cost tracking foundation that’s built on invoice automation.

Invoices are the single source of truth for restaurant costs — pinpointing prices and fluctuations for individual ingredients as well as paper goods, non-alcoholic beverages, and more.

With accurate and up-to-date ingredient prices from invoices, operators can start calculating plate costs. Plate costing is a detailed exercise that zooms into the recipes and/or individual ingredients that make up a dish — requiring detailed recipe costs and portion costs for ingredients.

Costing exercises can help show how each component is contributing to the overall profitability of a dish or drink. And recipe costing software can help make it easier to calculate and achieve an ideal balance between portions and profits.




Methodology

Toast analyzed monthly invoice items for sugar from restaurants using xtraCHEF by Toast. Items are weighted by the frequency of orders, not quantity. A standard unit of measure is determined so that an average price can be calculated across all invoice inclusions of the ingredient.

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