The maple industry is responsible for producing a lot of desirable goods, from pure maple syrup to candy to ice cream. In order to keep these products in stock, we must take a look at the success and future of the maple industry. What do officials expect the maple yield to total in 2024 – and will the industry dwindle out with the older generation?

These are questions that Mark Cannella from University of Vermont Extension addressed during his annual “Maple Industry Outlook” webinar. Cannella has been with UVM Extension for over 12 years and is a “well-known expert in all things maple and maple syrup and sugar,” stated Chris Laughton, the webinar host from Farm Credit East.

The majority of the maple syrup in the world is produced in Canada. In fact, over 90% of that Canadian crop is specifically in the province of Quebec, explained Cannella.

In 2022, the maple syrup industry was at its all-time high, with the largest spike in production that it’s seen in the past 10 years. Looking at the U.S. alone, the maple industry has been growing tremendously in revenue over the past 25 – 30 years, going from $34 million in total value in 2000 to $171 million in 2022.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has been tracking U.S. maple taps and syrup production, and there’s been a large growth trajectory throughout the years. “We see volatility, we see uncertainty on an annual basis, but we certainly see growth – significant growth,” Cannella said.

When looking at the American tap count, it’s been holding at around 14 million taps over the past few years. Canada has more than three times the amount of taps each year than the U.S. Vermont is the leading maple producer in the U.S., making up around 49% of American yield each year. New York makes 18% and Maine makes 11%. Wisconsin, although creating a small yield in comparison, is one of the fastest growing maple producing states, with 29% growth from 2017 – 2022.

USDA began tracking sap sales in 2022. Vermont is currently the leading state for sap sales. It’s important to note that sap sales “only represents $2 to $3 million worth in value,” Cannella noted, so it’s not a game-changer in terms of the overall economic magnitude of the industry.

The maple industry: How will it change going forward?

Although a sap-only enterprise may not be ideal for all maple producers, it’s important to recognize it as an option. Cannella mentioned how “the concept of a sap-only enterprise … not requiring the investment of the sugarhouse facility, evaporator technology, inventory of product and syrup marketing, cuts a dramatic amount of investment out of the proposal for the new entrants.”

In other words, sap-only enterprises remove a lot of the costs of starting or buying a maple business, making it more accessible for younger generations to join.

It’s important to consider how people are spending their money in terms of buying goods from grocery stores, markets and farms. A lot more food was being bought to make at home from 2020 – 2022, as people were avoiding restaurants due to COVID. Now that going out isn’t a concern anymore, we’re “still seeing and observing marketing growth … just not at the same rate that it had before.”

When it comes to transitioning, although a lot of businesses may keep ownership in the family, others may decide to sell. No matter what, benchmarks are needed to know how much the businesses will cost. When looking at intermediate assets, not including any real estate, Cannella has seen “roughly $55 per tap [as] a pretty good average” from 2014 – 2021. He expects that as maple equipment and technology become more efficient and expensive, this number will increase.

The expected revenue of a maple business is dependent on if it’s retail, wholesale/bulk or mixed. Cannella mentioned that the average sales per gallon equivalent (PGE) for retail was $85 – $95, bulk was $2.10 – $2.40 and mixed was $40 – $60, depending on the percentage of each. With this information, a 10,000-tap business with 80% wholesale and 20% retail, at 5 lbs./tap, is expected to make around $170,000 a year ($90,000 wholesale and $80,000 retail).

Cannella finished his discussion with some challenges to look out for come next season: climate change, labor and the evolution of the market and supply chain. He emphasized how “most maple producers are concerned about their yield, concerned about their tree health.”

There are some things maple producers can do to prepare for climate change, such as using technology and practices with tubing systems and sap sanitation, replacement of spouts annually and more. The key is to maximize the weather-volatility of your production and equipment.

Keeping the evolution of the market and supply chain in mind is important, as you want your business to stay relevant. For example, society is focusing more on sustainability, recycling and waste reduction. When planning what materials and packaging you are going to use for your maple products, consider using materials that reduce waste, weight and are recyclable.

by Kelsi Devolve