The Domino Sugar Corporation is one of the most widely available sugar brands in the United States. You may have grown up with it, and it’s probably one of the products you reach for when you’re getting ready to make some homemade brownies.
But is Domino Sugar vegan? Does it fit with a compassionate lifestyle?
If you haven’t heard of Domino Sugar it’s likely because you live on the West Coast of the United States, where Domin’s sister company C&H dominates the market. But if you live on the East Coast, this is probably what you grew up with.
The company started making sugar in 1901 and sold it in rectangular shapes that looked like Dominos. And so the name was born.
I hadn’t heard of Domino Sugar before being asked about it by a client. I grew up with the pink and white packaging of C&H.
I know enough about the processing of sugar to be able to talk intelligently to my clients about it, but of course, I wanted to be sure. So I dove in, did some research, and even emailed the company.
Here’s what I found out and what you need to know before your next family baking party.
Wait…Sugar Might Not Be Vegan?
Sugar comes from plants. The most common plants are sugarcane, which is probably what you think of when you think of sugar, or sugar beets. I never thought of sugar beets as the source of sugar, but half of all sugar in the United States comes from sugar beets!
Sugar from sugar beets is always vegan.
But what about sugarcane?
Most of us are used to those tiny, snow-white granules of sugar that our parents used to let us pour on top of our Cheerios when we were kids, if we were lucky. I was happy if I just got a Splenda packet or two.
But sugar isn’t naturally white. It’s brown! Like molasses (which is from sugarcane!)
White sugar looks more appealing and is easier to standardize, so companies whiten it before sending it to market.
There are three methods that companies can use to whiten their sugar: ion exchange resins, granular activated carbon, or bone char filters.
Ion exchange resins and granular activated carbon and vegan-friendly methods for whitening sugar.
Ion exchange resin methods involve an exchange of ions. Without getting too technical, color bodies (like the tan or yellowish color of raw sugar) are usually negatively charged at a neutral pH and have non-polar regions. This means they can be attracted to and absorbed by anion exchange resins. The resins remove the dark colors and you are left with pure white sugar. (1)
Granular activated carbon is usually sourced from coconuts, coal, peat, and/or wood.
Bone char is not vegan-friendly.
Bone char is an absorptive carbon retrieved from the leftover ash after burning animal bones (most often the skull) in combustion chambers. Processing sugar with bone char helps remove impurities and gives your sugar that pure-looking white color we’re used to.
Even though there is no animal residue left in the final product (the carbon is burned off in the processing), the fact that an animal had to give its life to make a carbon filter so that we could have sugar that looks white instead of tan doesn’t sit well with strict vegans.
Maybe that’s why companies don’t like to call them bone char filters and opt instead to call them natural carbon filters.
Doesn’t the just sound nicer?! 👍
Most sugar companies have moved away from bone char filters, but the practice hasn’t completely left the industry.
Hence the need for this post.
Learn more about ion exchange resins here.
Learn more about granular activated carbon here.
Is Domino Sugar Vegan?
Yes and No. I’ll talk through specifics and products here in a minute, but this next piece of information caught me off guard and is important for you to know…
Domino has several facilities throughout the United States. Some use bone char to process their pure cane sugar and some don’t.
Domino has been making sugar for more than a century, and bone char filters have been a major part of their processing. Some of their facilities have moved on to an ion exchange filtration process, but other facilities continue with their traditional methods.
Which ones still use bone char filters?
Domino Facilities That Use Bone Char
Domino Facilities that Use Ion Exchange Resins (Vegan-Friendly)
South Bay, FL
How Do You Know Which Facility Made Your Sugar?
Domino Production, or Lot, Codes indicate where each bag of sugar was made. So, if you memorize the following list (or have it easily on hand), you can look at the package and be sure that any variety of Domino sugar you are buying is vegan-friendly.
If the lot number on the package begins with the number 1, 4, or 6, the product is vegan.
Here are all of the Domino Sugar Refinery Lot Codes
1 = Yonkers, NY – vegan
4 = Baltimore, MD – vegan
5 = Chalmette, LA – not vegan
6 = South Bay, FL – vegan
7 = Crockett, CA – not vegan
The two Domino facilities that still use bone char only use it on certain varieties they produce. Here are Domion’s many products and whether or not they are vegan.
Vegan Varieties of Domino Sugar
Domino sugar makes several different products, each suited for different purposes.
Their current list of products includes varieties of standard white granulated sugar, brown sugar, and powdered sugar.
They also have a few hybrid varieties including Turbinado and their new Golden Sugar.
Some of these are vegan, while others are not. Here’s some information on each product and which are safe for vegans.
Organic Raw Cane Sugar
According to Domino’s Frequently Asked Questions Page, their “Organic Raw Cane Sugar is made from certified organic sugar cane and produced in accordance with the USDA’s National Organic Program and certified organic by Quality Assurance International.”
As of January, 2020 bone char is not on the USDA Organic Program’s National List of Allowed Substances. So certified USDA organic sugar cannot be filtered through bone char.
Before 2020 Domino was using bone char in their Organic Cane Sugar in at least some of their facilities. Kristin, the Vegan in Park City, emailed the company in 2006 asking if they used bone char in their cane sugar.
The answer was a resounding, yes, based on this response:
“The natural charcoal we use is made exclusively from the bones of non-European cattle. These healthy bones are incinerated for 12 hours at temperatures reaching over 700 degrees centigrade. This burning process destroys all organic matter (including viruses, bacteria and proteins), leaving only an inert granular substance called natural charcoal that is about 10% elemental carbon and about 90% calcium hydroxyapatite.”
But as of 2020, no Organic cane sugar can use bone char. So this product is definitely vegan-friendly.
It’s also raw, which is a double-high-five for vegans.
Raw sugar is vegan because it does not go through the filtering process that results in the pure-white granulated table sugar you’re used to. Raw sugar is more of a brown color, the natural color of sugarcane.
✅ So this variety is both Organic (vegan) and Raw (also vegan).
✅. Domino Turbinado sugar has a light golden color from the molasses left behind after processing. Turbinado sugar does not go through the final whitening process so it is always vegan.
These are the two products Domino Foods makes that are vegan-friendly at all of their facilities. If you stick with these, you’re definitely good to go.
Non-Vegan Varieties of Domino Sugar
Remember that Domino sugars produced in New York, Maryland, and Florida are always vegan. They only use bone char at their California and Louisiana facilities.
So the following varieties are non-vegan unless they were produced in New York, Maryland, or Florida.
Domino Pure Granulated Sugar
Pure granulated sugar is Domino’s flagship product. They have expanded this line to include Domino Dots Sugar Cubes, Hostess Crystal Tablets, Packets, and their Quick Dissolve Superfine Sugar Flip-Top Canister.
🚫 This refined sugar is not Organic, which means it is processed using bone char at the Louisiana, and California facilities. So watch out for lot codes that start with a 5 or a 7.
Domino Brown Sugar
Domino makes both dark brown sugar and light brown sugar.
Brown sugar may look like raw sugar, but it isn’t. Brown sugar is made by adding molasses back to the refined white sugar.
So, whether or not brown sugar is vegan depends on how the white sugar was processed.
In the case of Domino, their brown sugar is not organic, which means their Louisiana and California facilities use bone char in order to make the final product.
🚫 No Domino Brown Sugar for vegans unless you know where you’re buying it from.
Domino Golden Sugar
This is the new kid on the block for Domino. Domino Golden Sugar is said to be less processed, which is why it has a golden color (kind of a mix between raw and processed).
Raw sugar is not whitened, so the raw portion of the Golden Sugar is likely vegan.
They claim this product is less processed, which still means processed. So either the product is processed to some extent or raw sugar is mixed with whitened sugar.
Either way, this product is likely made using bone char at the California and Louisiana facilities.
🚫 No Domino Golden Sugar for vegans unless you know where you’re buying it from.
Domino Powdered Sugar
The baker’s delight. And amazing on pancakes!
Powdered sugar, also known as confectioners sugar, is simply refined cane sugar that has cornstarch added to it to prevent caking.
If the white sugar is processed using bone char, then the powdered sugar is not vegan-friendly.
🚫 No Domino Powdered Sugar for vegans unless you know where you’re buying it from.
How to Make Sure Your Sugar is Vegan
The easiest way to guarantee you’re buying bone char-free sugar is to buy organic sugar or switch to another sweetener like coconut sugar, date sugar, or beet sugar.
If you really like your Domino sugar, just make sure you buy their Raw, Turbinado, or Organic varieties, or check their Lot Codes and make sure they start with the numbers 1,4, or 6.
Wondering about other brands of sugar? Read this article, Is Sugar Vegan, to learn more.
Is Domino Sugar Vegan Conclusion
Domino Sugar is a household name and one of the largest sugar manufacturers in the United States. It’s important to be aware of which Domino sugars are vegan and which ones are not. The only two products that are always vegan are the Organic Raw Cane Sugar and Turbinado Sugar.
All other varieties of Domino sugar, including their Pure Granulated Sugar, Brown Sugar, Golden Sugar, and Powdered Sugar, may or may not be vegan-friendly depending on where they were processed.
The great news here is that 3 of their 5 facilities have moved away from using bone char after more than a century of making sugar!
My guess is that it’s only a matter of time before their other two facilities follow suit and remove bone char for good. If and when that happens, I’ll be sure to update this post!
Until then, stick with their Organic or Turbinado varieties, or make sure you purchase products made in their New York, Maryland, or Florida facilities.
Enjoy baking? Let me know what delicious treats you make with your Domino Sugar in the Comments.
- Purolite. “Did You Know: Ion Exchange Resins Are Used to Decolor Natural Sugar…” Ion Exchange Resin Manufacturer, Purolite, https://www.purolite.com/index/Company/News-and-Events/blog/DYK–Sugar.