Michigan Sugar Company is an agricultural cooperative, based in Bay City, Michigan, that specializes in the processing of beet sugar. Founded in 1906, Michigan Sugar sells beet sugar under the brand names Big Chief and Pioneer.[1]

Michigan Sugar Company
Company typeAgricultural marketing cooperative
Area served
Number of employees
Year round 700, plus 1,500 seasonal
Findlay sugar terminal

Michigan Sugar operates four beet sugar factories, located in Bay City, Caro, Croswell, and Sebewaing, and operates three shipping and distribution centers in Michigan and the adjacent state of Ohio. The firm has a permanent employment headcount of 700 employees, to which are added 1,500 additional seasonal employees during the times of year when sugar beets are harvested and processed.[1]

During much of its history, Michigan Sugar was a publicly traded, private-sector firm. It was later a subsidiary of Imperial Sugar; after the 2001 bankruptcy of its former parent firm, Michigan Sugar became a cooperative in February 2002. Since that time the cooperative has been owned by a consortium of more than 1,000 sugar beet farmers, mostly located in Michigan's Thumb, who grow beets for processing.[1]

Michigan is a large producer of beet sugar:

"From farm fields to your table, the process of turning a sugarbeet seed into all-natural sugar takes many steps – some on the farm and others in the factory. It starts with planting the seeds each spring, continues through harvest in the fall and wraps up during an annual sugarbeet processing campaign at Michigan Sugar Company’s factories in Bay City, Caro, Croswell and Sebewaing."[2]

Under the trade names of Pioneer Sugar and Big Chief Sugar, Michigan Sugar's plants "produce roughly 1.2 billion pounds of sugar each year."[2]



The company's Bay City sugar beet processing plant located on South Euclid Avenue produces an offensive odor which can be described as burnt peanut butter, or vomit. Many complaints are received every year on the basis of the smell, and it is alleged to have been getting worse.[3] The plant is located on the Southwest side of town, and winds prevail from the West, so very regularly much of the Southeastern and Eastern residential areas are affected.

In 2004 the company settled with 3,800 families living near the plant for $1.75 million as the result of a class action lawsuit filed due to the offensive odor and pollution concerns.[4] In 2017 the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality sued the company over the complaints mostly related to odors. The suit was settled in 2019 with the result that Michigan Sugar would pay a $300,000 fine and support or create two environmental projects totaling $262,500.[5]

See also



  1. ^ a b c "History". Michigan Sugar Company. Retrieved December 17, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Michigan Sugar Company Research". Retrieved December 16, 2022.
  3. ^ "'Horrible' smell from sugar plant gets 800 complaints, attorney general interest". The Bay City Times. February 19, 2016. Retrieved December 17, 2020.
  4. ^ Langley, Stacy (November 29, 2004). "Bay City residents settle suit with sugar company". Huron Daily Tribune. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  5. ^ "Michigan DEQ sues Michigan Sugar after receiving 1,500+ complaints". WJRT News. Retrieved 2020-09-05.