The most recent consumer study by the Federation of Panela Producers, Fedepanela, found that Colombian homes consume on average six pounds of panela every month.
Panela, a solid piece of sucrose and fructose, is created when sugarcane juice is evaporated. The sweet is most commonly boiled in hot water and consumed as agua panela. It has less calories than purified white sugar and contains many vitamins and minerals.
In Colombia, agua panela is the third-most consumed hot beverage after coffee and hot chocolate. It is also the third-most consumed cold beverage, after fresh juices made with water and milk.
Panela production is an important economic activity especially in the Andes, where it provides many jobs and plays an important role in people’s diet. There are 70,000 farms that grow panela in Colombia, and 20,000 sugar mills that produce panela as well as molasses. The industry employs 12% of the economically active rural population, making it the second employer after coffee. In total, 90,000 Colombians earn a living with panela.