The article surveys the numerous applications of the principal sugar alcohols sorbitol and xylitol and their world production in 1978. Nowadays, the industrial production of sugar alcohols is almost exclusively by catalytic hydrogenation of the corresponding sugars; thus sorbitol is manufactured by hydrogenation of D-glucose, xylitol by hydrogenation of xylose, and mannitol by hydrogenation of invert sugar or fructose. Some 80% of the world production of sugar alcohols are manufactured in batch suspension processes using Raney nickel catalysts. Apart from the Atlas Powder continuous suspension process employing nickel-carrier catalysts, continuous processes have recently been developed which use Raney nickel and prove more economical owing to the lower catalyst costs. Trickling processes with fixed catalyst continue to play a minor role. Available production capacity based on batch suspension processes can be expanded by process optimization and new catalyst developments. A newly developed special Raney nickel catalyst reduces the specific catalyst consumption by about 50%.