Today we celebrate the birthday of Abram Lyle (14 Dec 1820 – 30 Apr 1891), Scottish ship owner, sugar refiner, and the man who gave the world Lyle’s Golden Syrup.
Starting his career in the shipping industry, Lyle later started supplying casks to ship Caribbean sugar and molasses. This got him into the sugar business, starting the Glebe Sugar Refinery with some partners. One of the by-products of the sugar cane refining process was a treacle-like syrup that usually goes to waste, but with the help of chemist Charles Eastick, Lyle found a way to refine it further to make a preserve, called golden syrup.
Lyle’s golden syrup was sold in tins featuring a drawing of a rotting lion carcass with a swarm of bees, referring to the bible story where Samson was traveling in the land of the Philistines to find a wife. During his journey he killed a lion, and when he later passed the same way he noticed a swarm of bees had started a hive in the carcass, producing honey inside the lion. From this, Samson created the riddle “Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness”, and the last bit of this riddle, “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”, became the slogan for Lyle’s Golden Syrup.
Golden syrup, being made from those sugars that did not crystalise during refinement, consists mostly of glucose and fructose. It is more water soluble than sucrose, and as a result less likely to form crystals, remaining syrupy under normal room temperatures. It is also sweeter than sucrose, so when using golden syrup as a sugar replacement in cooking etc, about 25% less golden syrup is needed to match the sweetness of sugar.
I am always endlessly impressed by people like Abram Lyle: those individuals who look at something that others see as a problem, or as waste – in this case the treacle waste – and instead see it as an opportunity to create something new and original.
With Lyle’s end product being golden syrup, I guess this really is a case of turning waste into gold.