5-Hydroxy-2-methylfurfural (HMF) has a high derivatization potential and is considered the sleeping giant of biobased platform chemicals. It is accessible by the acid hydrolysis of various carbohydrate-containing feeds, preferably those high in fructose content. We here report a detailed study on the use of thick juice, an intermediate sucrose (SUC)-rich stream in a sugar factory, and pure SUC for the synthesis of HMF in a batch reactor setup [in the presence of water and sulfuric acid (0.01 M) and at 180 °C]. Distinct differences in reactivity were found for both feeds, related to the presence of impurities (i.e., organic acids and salts) in the thick juice. To better understand the effect of the thick juice impurities, detailed model studies were performed involving the use of a model solution of SUC spiked with one of the thick juice impurities (organic acids such as maleic acid and a range of salts with potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium as the cations and carbonates, chlorides, and sulfates as the anions). The data were successfully modeled using a kinetic model for the main reactions in the network. The developed model revealed that sulfate anions have a major effect on the HMF yield and the batch time required to reach its optimum and are the likely cause of the differences in reactivity between pure SUC and thick juice.