Sugar refining is a historic activity in Europe. Raw cane sugar imported for refining began as early as the 13th century, with sugarcane becoming the first plant to supply Europe with white sugar, well before sugar beet was even discovered. Some of the sugar refining companies still active today were established in the 19th and early 20th centuries across Europe:
- 1853: Saint-Louis sugar refinery set up in Marseille
- 1878: Thames refinery opens in east London
- 1883: Abram Lyle opens a refinery in nearby Plaistow
- 1909: Refinaria Colonial founded by Portuguese King Manuel II in Lisbon (later SIDUL - Sociedade Industrial do Ultramar SA)
- 1918: In Finland six sugar refiners established during the 19th century merged into Finska Socker (later Finnsugar Ltd).
- 1921: Tate and Lyle merge operations