What kind of sugar is used to make cotton candy?

Updated July 10, 2018

Spinning sucrose into candy is a snap with the candyfloss machines that are ubiquitous at carnivals and town fairs across the country. And while regular table sugar will yield the tasty treat, known alternately as fairy floss and candyfloss, the secret ingredient of candyfloss sugar involves a bit of the added artificial colour and flavouring called flossine.

Table Sugar

Beet sugar or cane sugar processed into sucrose is usable in most commercial-grade candyfloss makers. However, fine sugar mixed with flossine is recommended. Flossine is available where the units are sold and rented and is merely the flavouring and colouring that turns the plain white fluffy clouds of sugar into the pink and blue cone-stemmed treats at the fair.


Candyfloss is made when sugar is heated to liquid and then forced through a spinning machine into small holes in the unit. As the threads or "floss" spin out of the rotating machine, they are twirled onto a paper cone.


While the notion of melting sugar into tasty treats has been around for hundreds of years, credit for the first fairy floss has been given to American inventors William J. Morrison and John C. Wharton, whose patented centrifugal sugar spinner was centre stage at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.


Sucrose, or sugar, is a carbohydrate molecule composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen: C12H22O11. It is commonly derived from sugar cane or sugar beet and has a melting point of 186 degrees C.


Candyfloss makers come in a variety of sizes and models, from children's versions to industrial models designed for long-term use to yield a profit. The sugars used in the commercial machines can be purchased where the units are sold or rented. However, the carnival denizens usually add flossine, which also can be purchased onsite or online, to fine sugar to make their own, less expensive candyfloss mix. Today, colours and flavourings run the rainbow.

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Linda Emma is a long-standing writer and editor. She is also a digital marketing professional and published author with more than 20 years experience in media and business. She works as a content manager and professional writing tutor at a private New England college. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northeastern University.