Understanding the Maple Syrup Industry


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The maple syrup industry is witnessing significant growth, and the market was valued at USD 1.49 billion in 2021. The industry is expected to expand at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 6.2% from 2022 to 2028. The US is a major producer of maple syrup, and the growth of maple syrup can be attributed to various factors. Among other noteworthy countries, China is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.8%, followed by Japan and Canada at 3.2% and 5.2%. Let us discover more about the scope of the maple syrup industry in this article and understand the factors behind the growth of the industry.

What is Maple Syrup? 

Maple syrup is made from sap sugar or maple trees. Studies have found that maple syrup can be a good source of antioxidants, minerals, and nutrients such as zinc, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and riboflavin. Maple syrup has various applications. It can be used as a flavouring agent or a food condiment for a variety of bakery products. According to data, there are more than 13 million taps for maple syrup in the US. The increasing popularity of maple syrup is leading to and influence to increase in the production of maple globally.

 

The Popularity of Maple Syrup

Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the US, followed by New York, Maine, and Wisconsin. The number of Americans who consume maple syrup has doubled in the past five years. The sharp increase in the consumption of maple syrup can be attributed to the way it is being presented in the market. It is now marketed as a natural sweetener and a healthier substitute for sugar and corn syrup.

The studies indicate that more than 25% of the population in the US will be 65 years or older by 2031. As the US and Canada population are ageing, there are increasing concerns about health. This serves as an excellent opportunity for maple syrup producers to market themselves as an ideal substitute for sugar. Various studies and researchers have claimed and advocated that maple syrup is pure, organic, and a healthier option.

 

World’s Leading Maple Producing Countries

Following are the world’s leading maple syrup-producing countries:

  • Quebec, Canada
  • Vermont, USA
  • Ontario, Canada
  • New York, USA
  • Maine, USA

Compared to other countries, Canada provides a wide variety of maple syrup and the finest syrup. This is one of the reasons why it dominates the market and sets the global prices of maple syrup. There are various other private organizations in Canada which even demanded to stabilize the price of maple syrup in the markets. The US has to face certain limitations because of the costs set by the Canadian market. If the Canadian dollar weakens, the other players and countries might have to suffer.

 

Key Players 

The prominent and key players involved in the production of maple syrup are as follows:

  • Vermont Maple Sugar Makers
  • New Hampshire Maple Producers Association Inc.
  • Bascom Family Farms
  • Quebec Maple Syrup Producers
  • B & G Foods
  • Decacer
  • Highland Sugarworks
  • The Kraft Heinz Company
  • Macphee’s Orchard, Prince Edward Island

 

Canada  – Largest Producer of Maple 

Canada is the world’s largest exporter and producer of maple syrup products, accounting for more than 75% of total maple syrup production in the global market. In 2020, Canadian producers exported more than 61 million kg of maple syrup products. The valuation of the exports in the Canadian market was $515 million. Out of this, more than 90% of maple is produced in the provinces of Quebec. More than 10 million gallons of maple syrup are produced annually in Canada.

Quebec stands the highest, and Vermont is the world’s second-largest producer of maple syrup. The settlers began maple production in the late 1700s and early 1800s. There are more than 8,600 maple syrup producers and businesses across Canada that ensure economic growth and also contribute to the GDP of the country. There are various advancements and technological processes being adopted by Canadian markets to support the growing exportation demand for maple syrup. Canada’s maple syrup is exported to more than 50 countries, including the US as well. Despite being the second-largest producer, the US imports more maple syrup than the amount of maple syrup it produces in a year.

 

Competitive Landscape

Besides the US and Canada, there are many other countries that are involved in the production of maple syrup. Countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia have growing demands for maple syrup. To cater to the growing needs, many countries have started growing maple syrup regionally. Certain conditions have to be met to get good yields and quality maple syrup. If the weather conditions are not ideal, there are chances that the quality of maple syrup may deteriorate. For instance, many European countries do not fulfil the requisite conditions and cannot proceed with maple syrup production. It is one of the reasons why most maple syrup is exported to Europe, and it is more expensive in Europe compared to other American countries.

 

History of Maple Syrup 

There is no archaeological evidence to prove the existence or origin of maple syrup in the world. However, there are various studies and reports that claim that maple syrup was originated from the indigenous people in North America. The University of Vermont suggests that the maple sap collection preparing the syrup began long before the Europeans settled in the United States. The indigneous people collected the syrup and introduced it to the early settlers of Europe. There are no official records to verify the statement and claim by the Americans. Different legends and sources have different stories regarding the introduction of maple syrup.

The Michigan Maple Syrup Association has another story associated with maple syrup production. It shares the story of a god named NenawBozhoo, who saw that people were becoming lazy after consuming pure maple syrup. To resolve this problem, he cast a spell on the maple trees that made the syrup watery. The consistency of the syrup was altered; because of this, processing became necessary. Besides this, there are multiple accounts of how early Native Americans processed sap to get maple syrup. The historical brief revealed that North Americans built various sugar bushes to boil the sap with hot stones.

Multiple techniques were used to get the syrup from the maple sap. It is believed that North Americans put the maple sap in wide bark vessels, allowing them to freeze. It was done to remove the water from the sugar, and later the ice was removed. As time passed by, various technological advancements and procedures have been invented to process maple sugar.

The technological advancements have enhanced the taste while keeping the original nutritional content of the maple syrup intact. Despite being sweet in taste, maple syrup has a wide range of health benefits. The sweetness in the maple syrup is derived from sucrose which is achieved during the process of evaporation.

It is believed that the European colonists settled in the area and learned the process of maple syrup production from the North Americans. The evidence reveals that the native Americans created three maple sugar types: cake sugar, wax sugar, and grain sugar. Grain sugar is similar to brown sugar in terms of texture. The heated mix was poured into the wooden blocks to create cake sugar and to create wax sugar, the heated mix  was poured onto the snow. The European colonists used a drill machine instead of other equipment to collect the sap.

The Americans even used the draft animals to haul and move along the large sap-filled containers to a central point. The increased availability of cane sugar in the late 1900s shifted the focus from maple sugar to maple syrup. Soon then, plastic bags replaced the buckets, tractors replaced the draft animals, and the addition of motor-powered tappers and filtrations was introduced further to improve the quality of the maple syrup.

With the technical advancements, plastic tubing systems were introduced, and the producers started using reverse osmosis machines to remove the water content. The introduction of pre-heaters helped reduce heat loss.

 

Process of Maple Syrup Production 

The process of maple syrup production involves the following basic steps:

1. Preparing for the season

Maple sugaring season begins in March-April every year. To get a decent amount of high-quality maple sap, the farmers usually start preparing it in advance. Weather plays a significant role in the final maple syrup production. It is often said that the night temperature should be below freezing, and the day temperature should be in 40 degrees.

2. Determining when to tap

If the maple tree is treated well, it can be tapped indefinitely. Tapping is basically the process of extraction of the syrup from the tree. Determining when to tap is a crucial step, and tapping at the wrong temperature can impact the overall quality of the maple. The amount of sap flow can be negligible if the temperature is beyond freezing. In such a condition, the trees may get frozen, and you may have to wait till the optimum fluctuating conditions.

It is essential to remove the sap without harming the tree. Be careful in your approach, and follow the steps below to understand how to tap the right way.

  • Find the right spot to drill the hole. Avoid drilling on the previous wounds or tap holes, as it may deteriorate the tree’s condition.
  •  Many producers recommend drilling the hole directly into the tree, whereas others recommend making the hole in a slightly upward direction. Check the condition of the tree and make the whole wherever necessary. Whatever you proceed with, make sure you use a new, clean, sharp drill for drilling purposes. Make sure that the drill you are using is intended for drilling into maple trees.
  • The final step in the process of tapping is placing the scout in the tree. Tapping too hard can make the wood split, whereas tapping too loose can create a vacuum leak. One must practise well to understand how hard to tap on the scout without overdoing things. Many sugarmakers use regular hammers to set the spouts. However, you must remember that you do not necessarily need the hammers. All you need to do is stop tapping until you hear a thumping sound.

3. Identifying the trees that require tapping

Here are the steps you must follow to determine which trees are tappable.

  • Check the condition of the trees during the fall seasons when the leaves are still on.
  • Check the shape of leaves, twigs, branches, bark, flowers, and seeds to identify the condition of the tree.
  • Avoid tapping trees under 12” diameter.
  • Follow the general tapping rules. For 12” – 18” diameter – proceed with one tap. For trees that have an 18” diameter or more significant – you may proceed with two taps.
  • Trees that have signs of decay, broken tops, and significant injuries should not be tapped.
  • Avoid any kind of seams and wounds on the tree.
  • The taphole should be no longer than 2” in diameter as it could impact the overall condition of the sap.
  • At the end of the sap season, taps should be removed carefully. This would help in the proper healing of the tree.
  • Maintain a mix of species and overall forest health.
  • Avoid placing more than two holes on a tree as it may affect the buildup and can weaken the tree.
  • Consider tapping only white and clean wood.

Just like humans can donate blood in a specific condition, trees need to be in optimal condition in order to process for tapping.

4. Collecting the sap

The sap can be collected via two common methods:

  • The classic bucket and spout method

The bucket and spout method is a conventional method and the most commonly used for collecting sap. The process begins with drilling a shallow hole into the tree and tapping the spout into the hole. On the hook, a bucket is placed to collect the sap. It is also covered to keep the debris away from the bucket. The traditional method is less subject to damage, but can take hours to empty the buckets.

  • The pipeline or tubing method

The pipeline or tubing method is a more modern approach to collecting the sap. In this method, a shallow hole is drilled directly into the tree, and a spout is attached directly to the tree. Today, most producers often insert the tap directly into the tree and connect it further to a tubing system. The tubes lead to larger collector pipes which further help in moving the sap. Tubing is cheaper to maintain and can help get more tap per sap if the proper vacuum is used. However, there are chances that squirrels might chew and destroy the pipes.

5. Filtering and grading the sap

After collecting the sap, the next step is to evaporate the perishable sap. One should note that the sap may get fermented if it is not boiled immediately. It may even produce ‘off-taste’ syrup and hamper the quality of the final product. The sap is boiled for hours to achieve the desired concentration and control the amount of sugar content. The sap is boiled at a temperature of more than 104 degrees in a commercially produced evaporator pan designed specifically for the maple syrup production. The sap is drawn off the evaporator when it becomes syrup. The process of boiling is performed until the sugar content attains a level of 66%. The sap should be cooled down before the boiling process to prevent the debris from getting collected.

Use a thermometer and hydrometer to ensure and maintain a proper density of the syrup. The syrup must be filtered and colour graded properly before sending it off for the packaging step. Technological advancements have changed the procedure and introduced the reverse osmosis system. As per this process, the sap is allowed to pass through a membrane that only allows water to penetrate. Larger producers often use the technique to remove the water content before the sap reaches the evaporator. This step helps save time and energy for the sugarmakers.

6. Packing it carefully

Filtering and grading are done to maintain the FDA standard and ensure that the sap meets the quality criteria. The grading is done according to the colour and taste of the maple syrup. Once the above steps are done, it is necessary to pack the maple syrup carefully. The packing step should be done under a certain temperature and condition to protect the quality and prevent contamination.

These are the basic steps that are involved in the process of maple syrup production. Despite technological advancements and innovations, the basic process has remained the same. If you are interested in Maple Syrup Production, you may even consider going for a renowned course that may assist you and help you learn the production process in a few minutes.

 

Why Should You Learn Maple Syrup Production? 

The maple syrup industry is well-established and provides ample opportunities for producers. Maple is considered to have a distinct and unique sweet flavour which is why it’s used as a flavouring ingredient, highly demanded by the bakery industry. With the bakery and confectionary industry demanding new and exciting flavours, the demand for granulated maple sugar is increasing simultaneously. Many new maple flavours are now being introduced globally. The increasing demand by consumers have created an opportunity for producers and prominent players in the market. The number of players entering the maple syrup industry is also increasing at an exponential rate.

The end-products with flavours of maple syrup can be experimented only when we have the raw product in good quantities. From viewing maple syrup as just a mere ingredient to a pure product, there has been a significant shift in consumer perception. One can leverage this opportunity and begin to learn the process of maple syrup production.

 

Certification Course in Maple Syrup Production 

Future Generations University presents a dedicated Maple Syrup Certificate Course which will help you understand the steps that you must follow for the production of maple syrup. It is a combination of online virtual sessions and field practice to implement the learnings in real-life. The course is ideal for those who want to prepare themselves for the growing maple industry. The mentoring internship program with a local maple syrup producer will help gain experience.

  • Novice maple syrup producers who want to gain the requisite skills and experience can enrol for the course.
  • The syllabus and topics have been outlined in a way to ensure the participants can discover the complete science behind maple syrup production.
  • After completing the training program, the participants will receive a 1-year membership in the West Virginia Maple Syrup Producers Association.
  • The classes and training sessions are conducted in a small group setting to enhance the students’ overall experience.

The virtual session and fieldwork have been designed in a way to cater to the needs of aspiring and skilled maple syrup producers. By the end of the session, participants will have an understanding of the following concepts:

  • The science of the tree and why sap flows.
  • Evaluating the forest and determining the right one for sap production.
  • How to market, promote and sell maple syrup
  • Determining which trees require tapping and how to tap the right way.
  • Evaluating the right conditions for sap production.
  • Reverse osmosis, evaporating, and filtration process.
  • How to clean and pull out taps in the right way after the sap season.

The WV Department of Veteran Assistance in Future Generations University also offers scholarships to students and programs. Veteran enrollees should send the fully completed Re-Education Assistance Application, a copy of their DD-214 that shows their character of discharge, and proof of enrollment (emailed receipt from FGU) to the Department of Veterans Assistance. Check the details of the course and learn in a batch of eight. Future Generations University charges a reasonable fee and may provide you with a good source of knowledge.

Summing Up

To summarize, we can say that the global maple syrup industry is expected to grow further. If you are interested in making a career in the sector, you must enrol for a professional training program. The certification course will help you gain skills which may help strengthen your career in the industry.

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