From Tree to Pancake: The Maple Syrup Supply Chain

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Pancakes with maple syrup

While you might not consider its origins as you pour the delicious amber liquid over your pancakes or waffles, an intricate supply chain is what brought maple syrup to your breakfast table. In this article, we'll trace the journey of maple syrup from tree to pancake, so you can appreciate all the hard work of making this breakfast staple.

According to Grand View Research, the global maple syrup market is valued at $1.49 billion and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.2% from 2022 to 2028. But what is involved in getting maple syrup from its sappy tree to your breakfast plate?

The Harvesting Process 

Maple syrup originates from two main countries, Canada and the United States. The harvesting process begins with tapping trees — usually red and sugar maples — by drilling a hole and attaching a collection bag or bucket. Once tapped, it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. The fan favorite is the super maple tree from Canada, which produces twice as much sugar as other tree variants. 

This sap is then transported to production facilities and boiled down. Boiling involves using a large evaporator pan over an open fire or modern reverse osmosis machines. The sap is continually boiled and evaporated until it reaches 66% sugar content and becomes thick like the syrup we know and love. The final step is filtering and bottling. 

Color and Flavor Grading of Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is graded based on its color and flavor.

It's graded from golden to amber, dark, and very dark. The flavors go from delicate to rich, robust, and strong consecutively. The different colors indicate how long the syrup was boiled down: the longer it boils, the darker the color.

From Tree to Pancakes: Following the Maple Syrup Journey 

After being bottled, maple syrup is shipped to retailers across North America and around the world. This can be done either directly from producers or through intermediaries specializing in shipping and distribution, such as brokers, wholesalers, or importers and exporters. 

Unfortunately, this year is presenting unique complications for the maple syrup supply chain. Labor shortages and a lack of glass bottles are impacting shipping times. 

Maple Syrup Trends

There are several trends currently affecting the maple syrup industry, such as:

  • An increased focus on sustainability and organic production methods
  • Increased demand for specialty syrups with unique flavors, such as blueberry or cherry-infused syrups
  • Maple water (the clear liquid from tapped trees before it is boiled down into syrup) is a healthy alternative to sugary drinks like soda or juice.

The Syrup We All Know and Love

Maple syrup has been used as a sweetener for centuries worldwide thanks to its unique taste profile and its myriad of health benefits. By understanding how this popular product moves through each stage of its supply chain, we can better appreciate how much effort goes into bringing us our favorite pancake topping.

Image Credit: New Africa /

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