New Maple Syrup Grades Legislation Update

Grading Maple Syrup: The Rules are Changing.

Seventh Generation Maple Farmer Arnold Coombs Says Changes Will Eliminate Customer Confusion and Help Vermont Maple Syrup Compete Globally.

A new system for grading maple syrup was approved last week by Vermont lawmakers. The legislature passed a joint resolution supporting the Vermont Department of Agriculture in writing the rules for a new system of grading maple syrup. This newly approved legislation will allow maple producers to maintain current maple-grading rules and apply the maple-grade changes recommended by the International Maple Syrup Institute (IMSI). Vermont producers will still have the ability to customize their labels with information such as “Made in Vermont” and “Fancy”, but all will have to go by the new maple grades.

Currently, the plan is for the changes to take affect at the consumer level in January 2014. This will allow small farmers and larger producers a year to transition over to the new terminology and make the necessary label changes.

Other maple producing regions in the United States and the Canadian provinces are expected to soon adopt international standards for maple syrup grading. Based on what has been proposed, there will be a grading standard for maple syrup based on color and flavor profiles. There will now be two grades: 1) Grade A with 4 classifications – Golden Color, Delicate Taste; Amber Color, Rich Taste; Dark Color, Robust Taste; Very Dark Color Strong Taste and 2) Processing Grade.

Note, these new international standards would only be applied to pure maple syrup and not fake or imitation breakfast syrup.

Since January 1980, maple syrup has been graded based on its density and translucency according to Canadian, United States, or Vermont standards. As a promotion and marketing organization made up of U.S. and Canadian producers and processors, International Maple Syrup Institute’s (ISMI) primary impetus for changing the grades is to alleviate consumer confusion about the difference between the grades, and have continuity for export markets.

As one of the largest producers of pure maple syrup in New England, Bascom Family Farms is a major supplier of maple products to packers, distributors, manufactures, retailers, and others in the food business. Arnold Coombs, Seventh Generation Maple Farmer and Director of Marketing and Sales for Bascom, is closely monitoring the maple grades change legislation.

“As the volume of maple syrup made in Vermont grows rapidly, an increasing percentage of it will be sold out of state,” said Coombs. “We need to make it as easy as possible for all users to buy our maple. The current way of grading maple syrup is confusing and misleading. The number one question I get asked is ‘What’s the difference between maple grades?’ “

He continued: “Today, consumers are used to descriptors on food packages – Salsa is hot, medium or mild – and we need to make it easy for consumers and retailers to buy pure maple, especially Vermont pure maple syrup. The new grading terminology will do that.”

With the new changes coming, there will be a massive effort in the maple industry to educate producers, buyers, retailers and consumers about the maple grade changes. At their annual open house in March, Bascom Family Farms explained the changes to their key buyers. Additionally, Bascom will create educational materials outlining the grade changes so there is a clear understanding around the (proposed) new grading system. These educational materials will be used to communicate with distributors, retailers and buyers at a variety of events including tradeshows, manager meetings, as well as training events.

Questions about the maple grade changes? Give us a call at 888-266-6271 or email us at info@maplesource.com.