India produces large quantities of sugarcane in the country (approximately 271 MT) every year, mainly for developing sweetening agents like sugar & jaggery and a small proportion is used for various other purposes. Sugarcane juice is commonly used as a delicious drink in both urban and rural areas. Sugarcane juice of 100 ml contains 40 kcal of energy, 10 mg of iron and six µg of carotene. It is rich in enzymes and has many medicinal properties. Sugarcane juice is a great preventive and healing source for sore throat, cold and flu. It has a low glycaemic index which keeps the body healthy. Even diabetics can enjoy this one sweet drink without fear. This is because it does not contain simple sugars. It also hydrates the body quickly when exposed to prolonged heat and physical activity; and is an excellent substitute for aerated drinks. Sugarcane juice refreshes and energizes the body instantly as it is rich in carbohydrates.
Sugarcane juice or syrup is available fresh across the country, however preservation of the same is a challenge. Storage of sugarcane syrup at room temperature causes it to turn dark brown with significant sedimentation. In general, sugarcane juice is spoiled quickly due to the presence of simple sugars. Very shortly after the harvest of sugarcane crop, endogenous invertase enzyme is activated and accentuates deterioration. The organisms convert sucrose into polysaccharides, such as dextran. Apart from the loss of sucrose, the presence of dextran even in very small amount creates a problem of filtration, clarification, crystallization and alters the shape of sugar crystals, thereby affecting the quality of sugar
Extensive work and research has been done in the field of preservation of sugarcane juice & syrup, given its extensive benefits & uses in the consumer & industrial market.Various methods are employed for preservation and bottling of sugarcane syrup to enhance its shelf-life. Earlier conventional processes which chiefly involved evaporation by heating presented two major drawbacks. It consumes a huge amount of energy and, heating the syrup also decomposes the sugar and other substances resulting in low-quality and dark-coloured juice/syrup.
Scientists & Industrial Experts have studied various preservation technologies such as pasteurization, pulsed electric field, ultrasound, microwave, and high‐pressure processing to secure enzymatic reactions and microbial growth in fresh sugarcane juice/syrup. In present times, the food industry is more concerned with the product shelf‐life longevity and safety for which chemical preservatives are extensively added. These chemical preservatives are artificially synthesized, for example, sodium and potassium salts of lactic acid, benzoic acid, and sodium diacetate and the like. Most of these chemical preservatives are expensive and pose health problems as they are carcinogenic and cause digestive and respiratory problems.
In the contemporary markets, the health‐conscious consumer, food manufacturers expect natural, safe, and environment-friendly preservatives that are less expensive, more nutritious, and can be easily obtained. However despite the chemical and non-chemical preservatives, catalysts, the challenges remain in the preservation of sugarcane syrup & juice as there are no particular technologies that can ensure preservation without compromise in the taste, colour and sensory attributes. Sugarcane syrup still remains one of the most difficult syrups/juices to preserve and extend its shelf-life despite worldwide research and investment into it.