Vegan sugar is sugar that is not filtered using bone char, or charcoal made from animal bones. Bone char is used to take the brown color out of sugar, making it white. Most of the white sugar that is purchased from the grocery store falls into two categories: pure cane sugar or beet sugar. They look the same and taste the same, but the two are processed in slightly different ways. Cane sugar is commonly filtered through bone char, while beet sugar never is.
One way to avoid the use of the bone char sugar filtration process is to purchase unrefined sugar or dehydrated sugarcane juice. Unrefined sugar is not processed in the same way as refined sugar. It is a darker color than refined table sugar because it retains more molasses. The unrefined sugar or dehydrated sugarcane juice is not filtered with animal bone char. As a result, it can be considered to be vegan sugar.
Another way to avoid animal char is to purchase sugar that is made from beets. Typically, the sugar made from beets is not filtered through bone char, while sugar made from sugarcane is. In addition, there are websites and organizations that list whether or not a specific sugar refinery uses the bone char filtration process.
Since animals and their by-products are not consumed by people following a vegan diet, many vegans opt for sugar that is strictly labeled "vegan sugar." Some health food stores and vegetarian grocery stores sell vegan sugar. By purchasing the sugar in this manner, it is guaranteed to be free from animal bone char. It can cost more than regular commonplace sugar, but it may also give people who follow a vegan diet the most peace of mind. These same stores may sell other sweetening options, such as pure maple syrup, brown rice syrup, and agave syrup to sweeten baked goods or other food items.
A close study of specific products and companies can provide consumers with a wealth of knowledge. Although some people may prefer to use certain brands of vegan sugar to avoid bone char, other people may prefer to use it because of other reasons. For example, some refineries may use better labor practices or organic sugarcane.