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A tin of Lyle's Golden Syrup
A bottle of golden syrup

Golden syrup is a pale treacle. It is a thick, amber-colored form of inverted sugar syrup, made in the process of refining sugar cane juice into sugar, or by treatment of a sugar solution with acid. It is used in a variety of baking recipes and desserts. It has an appearance similar to honey, and is often used as a substitute for people who do not eat honey. It can also be used as a substitute for corn syrup.

Molasses or dark treacle have a richer colour than golden syrup, and a stronger, slightly bitter flavour.


Golden syrup was invented in 1883 by Scottish businessman Abram Lyle, when he discovered that a byproduct of the sugar cane refined at his factory in Plaistowmarker, East Londonmarker, could be made into a delicious spread and sweetener for cooking. First sold to Lyle's employees and local customers in wooden casks, the iconic green and gold tins that Lyle's golden syrup is sold in today were introduced in 1885. The tin bears a picture of the rotting carcass of a lion with a swarm of bees, and the slogan "Out of the strong came forth sweetness". This is a reference to the Biblical story in chapter 14 of the Book of Judges in which Samson was traveling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he killed a lion, and when he passed the same spot on his return he noticed that a swarm of bees had formed a comb of honey in the carcass. Samson later turned this into a riddle at a wedding: "Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness". While it is not known exactly why this image and slogan were chosen, Abram Lyle was a deeply religious man, and it has been suggested that they refer either to the strength of the Lyle company or the tins in which golden syrup is sold. In 1904 they were registered together as a trademark, and in 2006 Guinness World Records declared the mark to be Britain's oldest brand. Lyle's golden syrup was awarded a Royal Warrant in 1911.

In 1921 Lyle's business merged with Tate, a sugar-refining firm founded by Sir Henry Tate in 1859, to become Tate & Lyle. Tate & Lyle is the only cane sugar refiner in the UK and is the largest in Europe. It currently sells a million tins of golden syrup each month. To celebrate the 125th anniversary of golden syrup in 2008, Tate & Lyle is selling the product in limited-edition gold tins.


Golden syrup within its tin
In cane sugar refining, golden syrup is a combination of byproducts at the crystallization stage, but an equivalent product is made by beet sugar refiners by processing a sugar solution and breaking down the disaccharide sucrose so that some, but not all, is converted into glucose and fructose. This is either done by acid hydrolysis or by adding an enzyme invertase.

Typical chemical reactions are that the disaccharides are split by hydrochloric acid, resulting in a solution which is acidic. This is restored to neutral by the addition of lye, which is sodium hydroxide. The consequence is that syrup made according to these reactions contains salt (sodium chloride).

The glucose and fructose crystallize less readily than sucrose but give equivalent preserving properties to the solution. As a result, golden syrups are less likely to crystallize than a pure sucrose syrup. The high fructose content gives it a sweeter taste than an equivalent solution of white sugar; when substituting golden syrup for white sugar, about 25% less golden syrup is needed for the same level of sweetness.

The term invert comes from the method used for measuring sugar syrups. Plane polarised light passed through a sample of pure sucrose solution is rotated (optical rotation). As the solution is converted to a mixture of sucrose, fructose and glucose, the amount of rotation is reduced and the light appears inverted compared to light passed through the sucrose solution.

Lyle's golden syrup is a partially inverted sugar syrup. It consists of glucose and fructose syrup produced by inversion, which has been blended with the original sucrose syrup in a proportion that creates a thick mixture which does not crystallize.


Golden syrup is widely available in Indiamarker, United Kingdommarker, Germanymarker, Norwaymarker, Swedenmarker, Irelandmarker, Australia, New Zealandmarker and South Africa, but harder to find in North America outside of Canada and Louisiana, where it often appears in Cajun cuisine.

Lyle's Golden Syrup, made by Tate & Lyle, remains one of the best known UK brands. The other UK sugar company, British Sugar, makes an equivalent product under its Silver Spoon brand.

In South Africa, the most popular brands are Illovo golden syrup and the locally produced Lyle's Golden Syrup. In addition to the classic golden syrup, several flavored versions are also marketed, notably maple flavor.

In Australia, CSR Limited produces a popular golden syrup, and Chelsea golden syrupmarker has been a household name in New Zealand since the late 19th century.

Rogers Golden Syrup and Lyle's golden syrup are available in Canada. In Canada, Lyle's Golden Syrup is packaged in a glass jar instead of a tin. King brand syrup, a mixture of corn and invert syrup, is sold in many areas of the USA, often grouped with table syrups like maple syrup. Speciality stores or those with international sections, such as Wholefoods Market, often stock Lyle's golden syrup from the UK.

In Germany, a similar product called Zuckerrübensirup (literally "sugar-beet syrup") is a popular spread, especially in the western part of the country around Cologne. The best known producer is the Grafschafter Krautfabrik which has produced Zuckerrübensirup for more than a hundred years. This syrup is almost always made from sugar-beet; golden syrup from sugar cane is extremely rare on the German market.

See also


  1. Oxford Dictionary of English, 2005 ISBN 9780198610571
  2. In the New International Version of the Bible the verse, Judges 14:14, is rendered: "Out of the eater, something to eat; / out of the strong, something sweet."


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