How Sweet It Is
When it comes to caloric sweeteners, pure maple syrup — along with corn, crystal and white syrup, and molasses — accounts for only a small percentage of the overall U.S. market, according to “Caloric Sweetener Trends in the U.S.,” an October report from the Packaged Facts division of Rockville, Md.-based MarketResearch.com. But pure maple syrup is one of the subcategories that is poised for growth here. Packaged Facts estimates that U.S. sales of pure maple syrup will approach $140 million in 2014.
The market research firm also notes that new international maple syrup grading standards put into effect in 2014 eliminate Grade B and carry the following taste and color descriptors: Grade A Golden (delicate taste), Grade A Amber (rich taste), Grade A Dark (robust taste) and Grade A Very Dark (strong taste).
Trends with traction
Because consumer brand recognition is not strong for pure maple syrup, store brands have a good opportunity to offer products at a more attractive price point, Packaged Facts states. Current on-trend maple syrup marketing efforts include more elaborate packaging to provide an upscale image or situate the syrup for gifting, including corporate gift programs. Innovation in maple syrup products, meanwhile, includes infused syrup offerings.
Another current trend is that toward organic offerings.
“Organic is on a nice upward trend … and that should continue through next year,” says Arnold Coombs, director of sales and marketing at Brattleboro, Vt.-based Bascom Family Farms. “A growing number of our private label clients are choosing to go with organic maple syrup.”
Trends on the horizon
Sales of store brand maple syrup also could benefit in the years to come from consumers’ high interest in health and wellness. Being 100 percent natural and unrefined, maple syrup retains the inherent nutritional value of the maple tree sap, notes the Spencerville, Ontario-based International Maple Syrup Institute.
Researchers also have documented that maple syrup contains a number of phenolic compounds, some of which might benefit human health in significant ways, the institute says. For example, maple syrup contains abscisic acid, a compound thought to stimulate insulin release by the pancreas.
“Use of pure maple syrup as an alternative to refined sugar can also add to the antioxidant content of the diet, similar to replacing refined grains with whole grains,” an institute publication states. “With its wholesome, natural flavor, pure maple syrup has one of the lowest calorie levels of common sweeteners.”
Retailers that get the word out on these and other health benefits of their own-brand pure maple syrups could see sales soar.
“Pure maple syrup is increasingly being used as an alternative sweetener in the home,” Coombs says. “With its 54 antioxidants and its delicious flavor profile, it is the choice of more and more homes.”