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Vermont Maple Syrup Worth Its Weight in Gold?

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That thick golden syrup you pour on your pancakes and waffles is either colored, flavored corn syrup or it’s real maple syrup. The difference is like night and day. The flavored stuff is okay for dilettantes, but true connoisseurs won’t put up with anything but the real thing.

The real thing comes from maple trees. And if it’s made in the U.S., odds are it comes from Vermont, which is the largest producer of maple syrup in the states, turning out 41% of U.S. production of maple syrup, in 2011, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AMRC). For example, Cold Hollow Cider Mill creates some of the best maple syrup around. Their syrup comes from the sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees.

Canada produces by far the largest amounts of maple syrup in the world, with the province of Quebec leading the way, being responsible for about 75% to 80% of the world’s output of maple syrup, almost 8,000,000 gallons per year, as cited by Jordan Weissmann in The Atlantic. And don’t let anyone fool you. Maple syrup is big business. Canadian exports of maple syrup exceed C$145 million. In 2011, U.S. production of maple syrup went up 43% from 2010. Almost half of that was generated by Vermont, followed by Maine at 13%, Wisconsin at 6%, and Pennsylvania processed 5%. Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Connecticut accounted for the remainder (AMRC).

Maple syrup is graded based upon density and transparency. In Canada, syrups must be composed of at least 66% sugar and derive exclusively from maple sap to qualify as maple syrup. In the United States, syrups must be made entirely from maple syrup to be labeled as “maple.” Otherwise, they must be labeled as “maple flavored.” For example, Cold Hollow maple syrup is 100% pure maple syrup.

According to the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, maple syrup is a luxury item consumed around the world. However, the greatest market for syrup remains in the United States. In fact, the U.S. presently imports almost four times as much syrup from Canada as it produces, which means there is a tremendous opportunity for U.S. producers to expand production and fill domestic markets with “local” syrups. Syrup production in the U.S. is expanding rapidly due to a shortage of syrup and corresponding price increases.

The U.S. only taps 0.39% of all sugar and red maples growing in the eastern part of the country. If the utilization rate was increased to 1.52%, the economic impact would be considerable, increasing from $81 million to $248 million. Up until recently, the relatively low price of Canadian maple syrup precluded the aforementioned scenario from occurring. However, with the recent theft of $30 million worth of maple syrup in Canada, the picture has changed dramatically. The price of Canadian maple syrup more than likely will increase, making U.S. pure maple syrup producers eager to fill the gap.

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About Randall Radic

  • Jane

    As a Vermonter, I thank you for your article. I also wanted to mention to you and your readers that the best, most flavorful maple syrup is the “grade B dark.” We use a lot of maple syrup here, and pretty much only that “grade B dark.” (Try some butternut squash mashed up and mixed with a little butter and some dark syrup!)

    I also want to say that maple syrup is pretty much maple syrup, and who you buy it from isn’t particularly important unless you’re a super-duper-connoisseur. In a good year, everybody makes wonderful syrup. In a rare bad year, it’s all mediocre.

    The prices on the site you linked to are pretty high, too. In VT, we’re paying about $9 a pint this year (price goes up and down depending on how good the previous season was and how scarce the supply is).

    I’d urge everybody to come pay us a visit and buy some locally-made maple syrup from one of our many small producers at the farm or the local general store while you’re here.