“Sugar Bob” Hausslein has been in the Vermont maple business for a very long time.
For over 30 years, he’s sold more traditional products like maple syrup and maple sugar at the local Londonderry Farmers Market. But according to Hausslein, Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind really started to pick up when he introduced his line of value-added products in 2012.
The collection of value-added products are made using maple as the only sweetener. This is all part of Hausslein’s belief in “big flavors and clean ingredients.”
“It all started with our smoked maple syrup,” he explained. “That got really popular very quickly.”
Made by bubbling maple wood smoke through the syrup, the smoked maple syrup is more barbecue than breakfast. “It’s not just for pancakes. It makes a great glaze for both chicken and ribs. In fact, I’ve been told that it’s great for making something the kids are calling a ‘Smokey Old Fashioned,’” he said.
And there’s more to the value-added offerings aside from the superstar smoky syrup.
Hausslein has also developed four kinds of hot sauce – Smoked Maple, Vermont Maple, Habanero Maple and Jalapeño Maple. “They’re all made with local Vermont peppers,” he boasted.
His Smoked Maple BBQ Sauce is a thin, tomato and cider vinegar-based sauce, sweetened only with the Vermont Maple hot sauce and smoked maple syrup.
Finally, Hausslein introduced a collection of nuts – Apple Pie Maple Almonds, Maple Spiced Pecans, Maple Sriracha Cashews and Maple Sriracha Peanuts.
In addition to selling to local customers, Hausslein distributes his products nationwide. While a fair amount of these sales are through his website, he credits FAIRE, the online wholesale marketplace for retailers and brands, with a rapid growth in his customer base.
He explained that many maple syrup carriers outside of New England are actually selling syrup originating from Canada. “We’ve found that a lot of local co-ops would rather sell something that comes from a bit closer to home,” he said. “And branding matters! We brand our products as ‘American maple’ and that hits home with people in barbecue country. We have sales in about 40 states now. And we’ve seen consistent growth of about 30% year after year.”
To keep up with the ever-increasing demand for the spicy sweetness, Hausslein supplements his six full-time employees with some seasonal hires during his busiest times of the year. And to help him meet his raw syrup needs, he is able to purchase what he doesn’t produce himself from a number of nearby sugarbushes, all within 50 miles of his own operation.
“All told, we have about 20,000 taps on a couple hundred acres supplying our business,” he noted.
Sugar Bob’s has relocated to nearby Chester, VT, and is in the process of opening a retail and café presence to its business model. The progress is encouraging. Hausslein summed it all up: “We want to continue and improve how we connect the natural world with our food and with each other.”
by Enrico Villamaino