Imperial Sugar

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Imperial Sugar Company
IndustryFood industry
Founded1843 (1843)
FounderSamuel May Williams
United States
RevenueUS$848,000,000 (2011)
(US$50,200,000) (2011)
(US$53,400,000) (2011)
Total assetsUS$490,000,000 (2011)
ParentLouis Dreyfus
The old Sugar Land Refinery in Sugar Land, Texas
The former Sugar Land Refinery in Sugar Land, Texas
The former Imperial Sugar factory in Sugar Land, Texas
Another view of the sugar factory in Sugar Land
The state of Texas purchased the property of the Central Unit (Imperial State Farm) from Imperial Sugar[1]

Imperial Sugar is a major U.S. sugar producer and marketer based in Sugar Land, Texas, with sugar refinery operations in California, Georgia, and Louisiana. The company was established in 1843 and has undergone ownership changes multiple times. The current name, Imperial Sugar Company, was established after a change in ownership in 1907. The company went through major expansion through acquisitions beginning in 1988, but filed for bankruptcy in 2001, emerging in the same year and embarking on a downsizing strategy. In May of 2012, the company was purchased by Louis Dreyfus Group of the Netherlands.


The company has been headquartered in Sugar Land since its inception. The city itself is named for the company and the company's crown logo is featured in the city's seal. The company was founded in 1843 by Samuel May Williams and passed through a series of owners until its purchase in 1907 by the I. H. Kempner family of Galveston. The company was later renamed the Imperial Sugar Company, in an effort to emphasize quality.[2] Up until 1988 the company had only one plant, at its original location in Texas, when they purchased the Holly Sugar Corporation, a sugar beet processor headquartered in Colorado Springs.[3] At that time Imperial Sugar Company became Imperial Holly Corporation and began publicly trading on Nasdaq.[4]

Since the initial acquisition the company has made several more acquisitions that effectively doubled the corporation's size each time.[citation needed] The company's name returned to Imperial Sugar Company in 1999.[4]

On January 17, 2001, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, attributing its problems to lower sales for refined sugar as well as higher energy costs. Then on August 29, 2001, the company emerged from Chapter 11 and has since turned its focus inward as it downsizes its operations. In 2003, Imperial won the Wharton Infosys Business Transformation Award for innovative use of web technology to help turn around the business. The company no longer refines sugar at its original plant in Sugar Land (the facility was closed in 2003) but its corporate headquarters are still located in its founding city.

On December 19, 2010, two buildings of the Sugar Land factory were demolished by controlled explosion to facilitate the development of the property for residences, business properties and park land.[5][6]

In 2010, Imperial exchanged its aging nineteenth-century Gramercy, Louisiana refinery to Louisiana Sugar Refiners, LLC (LSR) for a one-third interest in the new company.[7] LSR commenced operations on January 1, 2011. Imperial continues to operate a small-bag processing facility at Gramercy.[8]

2008 explosion[edit]

On February 7, 2008, an explosion at a Port Wentworth, Georgia, sugar refinery killed 14 people and injured more than 40. It was likely caused by an overheated bearing on a conveyor beneath the sugar silos, which ignited sugar dust, then spread in a chain reaction of sugar dust explosions in the finished-sugar packaging area of the plant. OSHA had been criticized in a 2006 US Chemical Safety Board report for lack of preparation for such explosions and a safety program that "inadequately addresses dust explosion hazards".[9][10] As of August 26, 2008, the death toll had risen to 14, with one still in critical condition.[11]

The plant, originally built as the Dixie Crystals sugar refinery in 1916–1917, had been acquired by Imperial Sugar in 1997. At the time of its purchase, the Port Wentworth refinery was the second-largest sugar refining operation in the U.S.[12]

Acquisition by Louis Dreyfus Group[edit]

On 1 May 2012, Louis Dreyfus Commodities LLC announced that one of its subsidiaries would acquire all outstanding Imperial Sugar stock for $6.35 per share and assume $125 million in Imperial Sugar debt. The price per share represented a 57% premium over Imperial Sugar's closing price on 30 April. A spokesman for Dreyfus group said the acquisition was part of the company's efforts to expand into refining and distribution of sugar.[13][14]

Antitrust Lawsuit[edit]

In November 2021, US Sugar and Imperial Sugar were sued by the US Department of Justice for a proposed merger of the two companies. The Justice department claimed in a statement that the deal was anticompetitive and would “leave an overwhelming majority of refined sugar sales across the Southeast in the hands of only two producers”. Imperial Sugar and US Sugar stated that they disagreed with the antitrust lawsuit and that they fully intended to litigate.[15][16]



  1. ^ "Convict Leasing and State Account Farming (1883-1909)." Texas State Library and Archives. Retrieved on April 29, 2011.
  2. ^ A.C. Greene (1998). Sketches from the Five States of Texas. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 0-89096-842-X.
  3. ^ "President and CEO of Holly Sugar Reflects on Sidney Holly Sugar".
  4. ^ a b "Imperial Sugar Company History". FundingUniverse. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  5. ^ "Houston Chronicle". Archived from the original on 2010-12-22. Retrieved 2010-12-19.
  6. ^ Fort Bend Star[permanent dead link] Plans for development.
  7. ^ Louisiana Sugar Refining facility touted as 'an important project for the state'. Times-Picayune, Wednesday, February 3, 2010.
  8. ^ Louisiana Sugar Refiners, LLC.
  9. ^ Bynum, Russ. "At least 8 dead in blast at sugar plant". Seattle Times 9 February 2008. Retrieved on 9 February 2008.
  10. ^[bare URL]
  11. ^;_ylt=AuK1s0YeJOlkPSBv7knUTJGs0NUE[dead link]
  12. ^ Imperial Sugar Website
  13. ^ Koyitty, Bijoy (May 2012). "Louis Dreyfus to take Imperial Sugar private in $78 million deal". Reuters US. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved April 25, 2014.
  14. ^ Kaplan, David (May 1, 2012). "Imperial Sugar acquired by private company". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved April 25, 2014.
  15. ^ Breuninger, Kevin (23 November 2021). "Justice Department sues to block big sugar merger, warning of price hikes and supply chain strains". CNBC. CNBC. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  16. ^ McLaughlin, David (23 November 2021). "U.S. Sues to Block Louis Dreyfus Deal to Sell Imperial Sugar". Bloomberg. Retrieved 14 July 2022.

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