NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Maple Syrup Group Seeks International Standards

February 12, 2014

Some maple syrup producers are not pleased with an industry push for uniform grading standards, says the Wall Street Journal.

The International Maple Syrup Institute is pushing for U.S. states and Canadian provinces to adopt a uniform grading standard, the idea being that the standard would make marketing the syrup worldwide an easier endeavor.

But while many producers are pleased with the idea, not everyone is on board.

  • Vermont, whose official state flavor is maple, has adopted the international standards, with which producers must comply by January 2015.
  • But the state's producers are concerned that Vermont's unique cachet will be lost if they are required to use the same label descriptions as producers from New York or Quebec.

Vermont's current four grade system labels syrups as Grade A Fancy Light Amber, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber, and Grade B (not an inferior grade, just one with a more intense flavor).

  • With the new standards, all of Vermont's syrups will have to be labeled "Grade A." Why? The International Maple Syrup Institute believes that customers will see other grades as inferior.
  • To differentiate the Grade A offerings, the international standards will use descriptors: Golden/Delicate Taste; Amber/Rich Taste; Dark/Robust Taste; and Very Dark/Strong Taste.
  • The Maple Syrup Institute again has pointed to customer confusion as the reason for these descriptors. Currently, syrup that is light in color has different names depending on its origin: in Vermont, such syrup is called "Fancy Grade," while it is "Light Amber" in New York and "No. 1 Extra Light" in Canada.

Not all states have decided whether they are going to use the standards. New York does plan to use them in 2015, while the proposal is still being discussed in Wisconsin. In Vermont, syrup producer Burr Morse voiced his fear that the standardization will damage the state's unique offerings. "I'm really scared about this change of grades. It seems as though it's designed to erode my brand. I hope I'm wrong."

Source: Jennifer Levitz, "Sweet Dilemma: Will New Maple Syrup Standards Sap Vermont's Image?" Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2014.


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