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From a teaspoon or two in our morning coffee to that oh-so-decadent desert covered in chocolate and caramel, we certainly love our sugar. So consider this: The world consumes more than 165 million tons of sugar each year, according to estimates. That’s an average of about 23 kilograms (roughly 50 pounds) for every man, woman and child on the planet.

No doubt about it, sugar is big business.

In the United States, the Florida Crystals Corporation is a giant of the sugar industry. Headquartered in West Palm Beach, it is a privately owned, vertically integrated operation that takes sugar all the way from the cane field to the store shelf. It farms some 185,000 acres in Florida, where it also owns two sugar mills, a sugar refinery, a packaging and distribution center, a rice mill and what is arguably the largest renewable power plant in North America.

In recent years, the company has grown far beyond the Sunshine State. Acquisitions and global expansion have made Florida Crystals the world’s largest sugar refiner, with an annual production capacity of around 7 million tons. Florida Crystals and its subsidiaries deliver some of the best-known brand names in the business: Domino, Jack Frost, C&H, Redpath and Tate & Lyle.

All this might sound like a pretty sweet deal, but this kind of success only happens when your current operations run smoothly and your future vision stays clear. And these days, Florida Crystals is harvesting a bumper crop of both business efficiencies and clarity.

Recipe for Success

That’s because Florida Crystals uses SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud service to power a full stack of SAP ERP application software for everything from finance and materials management to sales and distribution, as the company’s Vice President and CIO Don Whittington described in a recent SAP video. Florida Crystals is speeding up core business processes and getting information faster than ever before from across its extensive supply chain. As a result, the company is providing faster response and delivery to its customers.

SAP HANA represents “a new frontier,” Whittington stated, and the business agility it enables is both liberating and extremely empowering.

“Our workforce can move from transactional to analytical,” Whittington said. “When your day is no longer spent running transactions, you have time to take the results of those transactions and use that to a business advantage.”

And Florida Crystals can do it all with the speed and breadth of analysis made possible by SAP HANA.

Sweet Leftovers

The company is also changing the sugar industry in ways that might affect all of us.

Florida Crystals is already using leftover sugar cane fiber to produce clean, environmentally-friendly electricity that powers the company’s sugar operations, as well as 60,000 Florida homes. The company is also partnering with leading universities to develop cellulosic ethanol from sugar cane after the sucrose juice has been extracted.

So, no need to choose between food and fuel. That’s good because millions of us look forward to taking our morning coffee just the way we like it. For me, that’s with one and a half teaspoons of sugar, please.

Join John for a cup of Joe on Twitter at @JohnGWard3