Recent developments in sugar transformations to methyl lactate and lactic acid are critically summarized. The highest yield of methyl lactate from glucose obtained over Sn(salen)/octylmethyl imidazolium bromide catalyst was 68 % at 160 °C whereas the highest yield of lactic acid of 58 % was achieved over hierarchical Lewis acidic Sn-Beta catalysts at 200 °C under inert atmosphere. In addition to the desired products also humins are formed in water whereas in methanol alkyl glucosides- and -fructosides as well as acetals were generated, especially in the presence of Brønsted-acidic sites. The main challenges limiting the industrial feasibility of these reactions are incomplete liquid phase mass balance closure, complicated product analysis and a lack of kinetic data. In addition to reporting optimized reaction conditions and catalyst properties also catalyst reuse and regeneration as well as kinetic modelling and continuous operation are summarized.