Award Winning Maple Syrup Made in a Backyard: A Taste of Change in The Maple Industry

by Dominique Bernier,

Recipient of the 2018 Bronze Medal and rated exceptional syrup by the largest tasting contest organized by the Commandery of Maple Artisans, the Sucrerie des Jaseurs from Cantley, Quebec, is officially part of those who redefine the Canadian maple syrup industry.

To give you an idea, the English translation of la Sucrerie des jaseurs, could be something like The Waxwings’ Sugar Shack. Its owner, Benoit Tessier, is a passionate maple syrup producer who spares no effort to perfect his art. He manages, with the help of relatives and friends, some 200 taps on the mountainside behind his residence.

His 128 square foot (12m2) sugar shack was custom made. He added a boiler fed by a wood stove.

Maple grove on the mountainside
alt textRustic and friendly design

Over the years, he has managed to reduce his operational efforts by creating a maple water harvesting system that uses gravity, without damaging the maple trees beyond taps.

Benoit has set up maple water collection points at different locations on his maple grove. A one-inch pipe connects all collection points. By using the angle offered by the mountain, maple sap added to the collection point converges in a 100 Gallons Stainless Storage Tank. The tank is located a few meters behind the sugar shack and directly connected to the boiler.

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The system put in place by Benoit facilitates the control of the flow of maple water to boil, giving him the quantity wanted at the desired time. For Benoit, managing maple water boiling is crucial in the process, since it allows him to achieve the desired density of sugar and shape the taste of his final product.

In the video below (in French with English subtitles), he explains the basics of his system and how he maintains high and constant heat for boiling efficiency.

Microscale Sugar Bushes and Controlled Designation of Origin

For Benoit, maple syrup is more than just a candy. Maple syrup is part of our identity, our cultural heritage and we tend to forget it, he says. That’s why he made it a point of honor to revalue this great wealth of the Canadian terroir.

In a sustainable development perspective, he is proud to produce an organic syrup from a manual harvest without osmosis. His passion for maple syrup production led him to create a model of quality and innovation to set new standards in the industry.

I am convinced that the innumerable subtleties and virtues of this natural sugar are still too little known and specific to each growing medium. I would love to participate in the creation of a controlled designation of origin for maple syrup. - Benoit

Benoit is convinced that micro-scale maple producers have the opportunity to stand out by creating unique products. According to him, establishing a controlled designation of origin could bring a breath of fresh air in this industry which seems constrained to Statu Quo, especially in Quebec. He shares the idea that maple syrup should be elevated to the same level as so-called noble products, such as wine or spirits.

As for great wine, maple syrup should be observed, tasted and compared, while trying to detect the flavors, subtleties, and aromas of each casting. - Benoit

A controlled designation of origin could allow some emancipation of micro-scale maple syrup producers (those with fewer than 300 taps). By creating taste experiences of exceptions, they would have the opportunity to offer a quality alternative to industrial productions, while stimulating consumer interest far beyond canned syrup.

It is reasonable to say that a wind of renewal is emerging in the industry, and Sucrerie des Jaseurs is one of many who is fuelling it. There are more and more micro-producers trying out new methods and offering high-quality products, Benoit said, and there’s a market for that, he added.

Although the economic potential of a hundred taps may seem modest, it still represent a few thousands of dollars. Syrup produced by the micro-producers is sold mostly to parents, friends or acquaintances. Word of mouth and social media are the main marketing channels. The economic potential of these small maple producers is still under-exploited because they lack the means to sell and distribute their syrup easily and quickly.

Digital Technologies and Marketing of Small Productions

With the Internet and the latest advances in e-commerce, individuals have the tools they need to properly market products and services formerly reserved exclusively for professionals or businesses.

In Quebec, it may be difficult to operate and market maple syrup production outside the yoke of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. A 2015 report demonstrates that this rigid structure must adapt to changes.

The arrival of maple syrup producers like Benoit, who produce exceptional syrups and market their products online, is one of the changes underway. Solutions adapted to their needs are therefore necessary to support the sustainability of their activities.

To sell his syrup, Benoit advocates Facebook, the tool that reaches the largest audience and RakeAround, an online marketplace to buy or sell hyperlocally grown products.

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Sell Your Maple Products Online

Become a producer and sell online using RakeAround can be done in less than 5 minutes and a few clicks. Once your producer profile is complete and your market open, use the sharing feature to show yourself on your favorite social media. It will increase the visibility of your products.

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Receive Purchase Requests

When sharing your producer profile on Facebook, target a specific audience. You will provide them instant access to your products in one click. Interested people will be able to send you a purchase request. Approve and confirm the purchase request, then communicate with your buyer to set pick-up details using RakeAround messaging. The payment will be transferred to your bank account after the transaction is concluded.

Create Awesome Experiences and Stand Out

As Benoit has shown, a production of a hundred taps gives you the opportunity to distinguish yourself by creating unique and exceptional products. By promoting your best practices, the taste and subtleties of your syrup, you will create a personalized link with your customers and will be able to shape authentic experiences.

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About the author
Dominique Bernier

Dominique is the co-founder of RakeAround. For him, demographic trends, the democratization of technology and the personalization of food will shape food systems of the 21st century.