Made in Idaho: A look inside Nampa's Amalgamated Sugar factory

Posted at 4:22 AM, Dec 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-21 11:23:08-05

From the farm to the factory, Amalgamated Sugar is a busy operation.

"We process sugar for 180,000 acres of beets in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington," said Nampa factory manager Eric Erickson.

The company's history dates back to the early 1900s in the Magic Valley. Since 1942, the Nampa factory has stood tall with its brick buildings welcoming employees. 12,000 tons of sugar beets from 300 growers are processed here every day.

So how does the process work?

First the beets are washed, then sliced. Next, they go into a diffuser where through osmosis, sugar is pulled from the beets while they are soaking in hot water. That leftover pulp, is eventually dried and can be fed to livestock.

The water and sugar juice known as "raw juice" is treated with lime and carbon dioxide gas so more non-sugars can be removed. The filtration process continues as the juice travels through evaporators, boils and thickens into syrup. Crystals begin to form, and then it's time to spin. The molasses separates and the sugar is washed, producing white sugar crystals ready to package.

More than 500 employees keep the Nampa sugar beet factory running.

"It is important for us to be a part of this community. Our employees here, some of them have worked here over 40 years. We have family members that have their sons or even their grandchildren working here at this facility and we're very proud of that," Erickson said.

Amalgamated Sugar is a co-op, grower owned. The Nampa factory spreads from I-84 to Cherry Lane, and with the railroad running through the middle, they can transport beets and produced sugar by rail or truck.

The steam rises high and can be seen miles away; it helps power the factory. And the smell? Well, it's part of the job.

"You have to compare it to what you do in your garden. We're going to take this vegetable out of the ground, it's got dirt on it so we're going to wash it. Then we're going to cook it. So it's the same thing you're doing with your vegetables in your kitchen when you're canning. It's going to cause a fragrance," Erickson explained.

"It's a heavy agricultural facility and what comes out of it, really is a good product," Erickson said.

Amalgamated Sugar produces sugar for 30 different brands or labels. While shopping look for the "X" on the lot number, and you will know it's Amalgamated Sugar.

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