Selling Maple Syrup .
There have been several articles in both the local and national press lately saying that maple syrup is Good For You. That it has anti-oxidants and other good stuff. I knew that a long time ago because I was a maple syrup producer for over a quarter of a century and we used this kind of info to market the product. Here is some of the research:
* Maple Canada's pure maple syrup label - 'Maple Syrup contains significant amounts of potassium (35 mg/tbsp), calcium (21 mg/tbsp), small amounts of iron and phosphorus, and trace amounts of B-vitamins. Its sodium content is a low 2 mg/tbsp. Maple syrup can be declared a good source of 3 essential elements - calcium, iron and thiamine'; and
* Wikipedia's entry which says 'Maple syrup has a number of nutritional benefits for humans. It is low in fructose compared to other popular sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup and agave syrup - extremely high percentage of fructose can be deleterious and can trigger fructose malabsorption, metabolic syndrome, hypertriglyceridemia, decreased glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, and accelerated uric acid formation.Maple syrup is an excellent source of the trace mineral manganese, with 2 tbsp (13.33 grams) containing about 0.44mg or 22% of the FDA Daily Value (DV%) of 2 mg. It is also a good source of zinc with 2 tbs (13.33 grams) containing 0.55mg or 3.7% of the FDA Daily Value (DV%) of 15 mg.'
I could keep on with this, but you get the picture.
Depending on whom you ask, sugar has 50 or 60 calories per tablespoon. So does maple syrup. It is, after all, sugar. For some people it is an acquired taste - my son-in-law dislikes it, for instance. But most people, given the chance, love it. My grandfather used to pour it on eggs; my father had a dish of prunes with maple syrup most days. Both of them got through an imperial gallon (four litres and a bit) or more each year, single handed. However, the single, simplest reason people avoid it is that it costs a lot. In our district, which produces a lot of Ontario's maple products, a two litre container sells for $35C and a cup of granulated maple sugar is $5.00C. That's right out of most people's comfort zone. Especially when cane sugar and the syrup make from it are so cheap.
It was not always so.
If you read Susanna Moodie's nineteenth century diary, 'Roughing It In The Bush', you will find her complaining bitterly about having to use maple sugar since she could not afford 'white'. The maple flavour spoiled the taste of her tea. White sugar was imported into Canada then and I think most of the expense was generated by transportation. Moodie lived a long way from the lakes that provided the only easy way of moving around Upper Canada and even then the sugar had to come by ship from, I think, the West Indies. Maple sugar, on the other hand, could be had by drilling holes in hard maple trees, collecting the sap and boiling and boiling and boiling the water out. Sap has, if you're lucky, three percent sugar. Syrup has sixty-six percent sugar. That's a lot of water to boil away. But wood was free, except for labour, and your only expense in creating maple syrup was the cost of big iron kettles. And time and labour, of course. Using kettles over an open fire, you moved the condensing sap from kettle to kettle, kept the fire burning hot, and skimmed constantly. Several gallons a day would be a good haul and you would have to stand over the kettles constantly. Labour intensive, for sure.
Throughout the twentieth century, techniques for making maple syrup improved, as did those for making cane sugar. The cost of importing the cane sugar also dropped precipitously. Even with purpose built evaporators for maple sap, reverse osmosis techniques for refining sap and plastic tubing collection, however, the labour required to make maple syrup kept the prices high (and the equipment costs rose with the new techniques). When producers switched from wood fired evaporators to oil fired, the price of fuel added to the cost. And when the family sizes decreased, labour had to be hired, at North American prices. Now even the huge maple bushes of ten thousand or more taps cannot compete with imported sugar; maple products have become a luxury. Even at the high prices presently current, maple producers are not making a lot of money.
This high cost requires that maple products be marketed as luxury goods. And the talking points are many. Maple is authentic, the marketers cry. It tastes far better that the stuff put out by Aunt Jemima. (I happen to agree with tha one!) Lately, with the surge of interest in local and naturally nutritious food, the push has been to market maple syrup as a healthy alternative to regular sugar as well as the connoisseur's choice. Thus the news releases dropping nutritional information, accompanied by advertisements singing the same tune. I made the poster above for a neighbour's sales table. Specious as all get out, but that's the marketing game.
There is a point to all of this. As do many other people, I think we in North America are poisoning ourselves with too much sugar. If a family were to calculate what their yearly intake of white sugar would be, price the total cost, buy the amount of maple syrup that amount of money would bring them, and then use only that maple sugar, they would be a good bit healthier at the end of a year, nutrients or no nutrients.
If they had access to a maple bush and made their own syrup, they would be a great deal more fit, too.
This is an original Canada Moms Blog post. When she is not soaking her eggs in maple syrup, Mary G can be found at Them's My Sentiments.