Hi jamaud. To clarify, utilize isn't typically part of our normal conversation; however, in the corporate arena people overuse buzzwords in an attempt to hype their own importance. I always groan reading the e-mails of people claiming to be utilizing, optimizing, and impacting something-or-other. Just my pet peeve, perhaps. I'm not sure why DL uses utilize so often.
I am struggling when to use direct articles with nouns. Some very similar exercises in DL would demand "ellos utilizan el azúcar." I had formed a guide in my mind that use article when noun is direct object and refers to the thing in general. Other threads discuss why it is present in sentences, but have not found one that discusses why it is NOT present.