When looking to buy a decent topping option for your pancakes, you might have noticed the large price range between the different types of syrup available. While pure maple syrup seems a bit more costly, the fake stuff is easy to find and inexpensive, which is probably why some people still choose it. The reasons why low-grade syrup is so cheap are quite obvious. Indeed, pancake syrup is industrially made in factories from corn starch, and is produced in considerable amounts by multiple machines operating simultaneously. Industrial plants are designed to produce large quantities of goods for the lowest price possible and as quickly as possible, which is why pancake syrup is not a quality product. It comprises both chemicals and additives, and that is why you pay for what you get: not much.
While making hundreds of bottles of fake syrup is possible within a snap of the fingers, it is quite different for pure maple syrup. When purchasing the real thing, you pay for both the time and labor put to create this sweet deliciousness of spring. Not only do you encourage and thank the producer for his/her dedication, you also give the local economy a small boost, which is always much appreciated.
First of all, the rhythm of production is probably one of the biggest factors that contribute to the difference in prices. As you might already know, the production methods of pure maple syrup have nothing to do with those of commercial syrup. Indeed, instead of a series of machines working orderly one after the other, the syrup from maple trees is usually made by a person, with the help of some equipment. The rhythm of production is therefore much slower, and the efforts provided are more substantial. From tapping the trees one by one at the beginning of the season to monitoring the evaporation process and bottling the maple syrup bottle by bottle, the process comprises multiple time-consuming steps that each require the attention of the producer. The production of maple syrup requires experience and skills, without which the producer could not maximize each sugaring season.
Second of all, pure maple syrup is subject to a strict quality control in the province of Quebec, as it has to meet the high standards of the industry in order to be sold. Rigorous tests are run in order to ensure the purity of the syrup, and to make sure it has the perfect color, taste, texture and transparency. Indeed, maple syrup cannot simply be produced and poured into bottles without any thinking, like it is the case for commercial pancake syrup. Any pure maple syrup batch that does not meet the precise and mandatory requirements of its color class has to be either thrown away or labelled as Processing Grade. This grade of maple syrup cannot be sold to the public, and that is why it is a huge waste for the producer. Moreover, if contaminated by any bacteria, a batch of syrup usually has to be discarded entirely by the producer. It can be especially hard for small family businesses, and that is a risk they face each year.
Third of all, the scarcity of the product is another reason that explains why the real thing is often more expensive. As you might already know, it takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to produce a single gallon of pure maple syrup. Therefore, an enormous number of maple trees is needed to fill a decent amount of maple syrup bottles. For example, in order to produce their sweet nectar, my colleagues have about 24,000 taps on their sugar bush, which is a lot considering the fact that most trees have only one tap, sometimes two for the bigger ones. Plus, the species of maple trees that produce a sweet sap cannot be found everywhere, as they usually only grow in eastern North America. Maple syrup can thus be considered a rare commodity, since it takes many resources and time to produce and is rarely made in significant amounts at once.
Fourth of all, the quality of the container in which pure maple syrup is poured usually suggests that of the syrup itself. That is why many producers choose to store their syrup in fancy bottles or cans, as it is much more appealing than a plain, drab packaging. A beautiful container makes for a more interesting shopping experience, especially for window shoppers. Think of it like the cover of a book. Your eyes will be more easily attracted by a gorgeous cover: the same goes for a pretty bottle of maple syrup. Fancy glass bottles, for instance, usually cost more to produce than cheap plastic containers, which could explain the slightly higher price attached to it. Not only do you pay for the quality of the syrup, but you also pay for the experience that comes with a nicely packaged product.
Finally, the right conditions have to be met in order for the trees to start producing their sap. Nature has control over the production of maple syrup, as the sap cannot flow without precise temperatures. During the day, the temperature has to rise above the freezing point, but has to stay below 0°C (32°F) at night. The sugaring season cannot happen if these conditions are not met: Colder days will freeze the maple water, while warmer nights will cause the trees to bud earlier and the season will thus end. Those conditions cannot be recreated in any way either, which is why the length of the season entirely depends on Mother Nature. Producers have to constantly deal with such a risk, and rougher, shorter seasons can cause the maple syrup prices to increase.
As you might have understood by now, lots of factors completely escape the producer’s control when it comes to maple syrup production. Making the most delicious pancake topping demands efforts, is time-consuming and can be a risky process, especially for smaller family businesses. Despite all of those things, my colleagues at Canadian Maple Co. always strive in order to offer you the best maple syrup curated in the province of Quebec, as “there is no substitute for quality”. That is why the purest maple syrup can be a bit more costly than your average low-grade corn syrup, but its sweet, exquisite taste is certainly worth your while.