Looking Back on a Decade of Maple Innovation
Back in 2007, Local Baquet ran an article by Bonnie Hudspeth on maple innovation and production in Vermont. The Washington Post conveniently ran their own article a decade later addressing the same topic - a decade during which maple production in Vermont tripled to 1.8 million gallons a year and innovation seems to have entered a new golden (or perhaps amber) age.
We thought we’d do a quick maple innovation news round up for 2018 / 2019 to help everyone keep up with some of the trends:
Maple Hot Sauce is mentioned in the original 2007 piece, a product that has entered the big time now with several local producers, hot pepper infused syrups (perfect for Indian food, FYI), and a bit of maple-related YouTube fame when Maple Wood Smoked Onion hot sauce from Butterfly Bakery appeared on the seventh season of the Hot Ones.
Maple sap-based seltzer is another 2007 innovation highlight that has seen an expansion in its sector, with several products and a turn by one producer (Sap!) on the reality TV show Shark Tank.
The Maple Guild company in Island Pond has doubled down on maple drinkables, with a line of enhanced waters and a new probiotics line unveiled just this year. Maple Guild has also introduced a new business approach to maple that has not been without controversy, as discussed in this Boston Globe piece from 2016.
Saxton’s River Distillery a decade ago was looking to produce more maple based spirits that were less sweet than their original liqueur, a goal that has since been achieved as outlined in this Vermont Sugar Makers Association blog post. Another spirit item of note is the work of Elm Brook Farm to designate a maple-specific spirit category, and their own entry into this category: Rail Dog.
Infusing maple with flavors has seen a big popularity boost, with Runamok Maple being one of the trendsetters. Oprah Winfrey named it one of her favorite things in 2016 and their ginger root infused syrup won an outstanding specialty food award in 2018. You can also find Runamok infusions in other specialty products, like the Makrut Lime Leaf syrup that appears in Wild Hart Distillery’s Vermont Classic gin (it makes a great gimlet). They aren’t the only ones, Baird Family Farm, for example, has a specialty spruce tip infused syrup that also appears in a Hired Hand Brewing beer.
And, Sprayable Maple - a new delivery mechanism that makes it easier to manage the amount that lands on your pancakes. Denying well intentioned Vermonters the chance to “accidentally” drown breakfast in a lake of syrup.
A lot of the innovation in maple happens behind the scenes, production practices that create higher yields, more sustainable forestry practices, answers to managing a more variable climate, and so on. Innovation in production methods has now met innovation in consumer products with the Vermont Evaporator Company, selling sophisticated backyard sugarmaker equipment that becomes a smoker and party grill in other seasons.
This is just a taste of maple innovation in our state - and Vermont shows no sign of our creativity slowing down!