Sweet Deal: Trade Group Helps USDA Revamp Maple Syrup Grading System

"Grade B" no longer makes the grade. After the International Maple Syrup Institute realized that the grading system was confusing, it petitioned the USDA to revamp the system based on the way people actually use syrup. The USDA agreed.

Things are getting sweeter for maple syrup producers.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it is changing the grading of maple syrup to match international standards.

Before the change, maple syrup producers in the U.S. classified syrups lighter in color and flavor as “Grade A” and some darker ones with stronger flavor as “Grade B.” Now Grade B is being nixed.

All syrups will be labeled Grade A and classified by color and flavor, as is standard across the world. There are four classes of maple syrup: golden color and delicate taste, amber color and rich taste, dark color and robust taste, and very dark and strong taste.

The change was the result of a petition filed in 2010 by the International Maple Syrup Institute. The group, which represents U.S. and Canada syrup producers, claimed that the grades and labels misled customers. (In a nutshell: Although Grade B syrups are more palatable to many pancake eaters, the label implies they are of lower quality than Grade A syrups.)

“I think it will be good for the industry as a whole,” Maine Maple Syrup Association Vice President Kevin Brannen told the Associated Press. “It puts everybody on the same page, whether it be the consumer or the producer or the packer. So, I think it’s going to work out well.”

Industry executives say that the move for consistent grading will help America’s $400 million maple syrup industry compete with global producers.

It turns out that USDA was a little behind the curve on the issue: Vermont and Maine, both known for their syrup production, had made the change first.

“Vermont has always historically been a leader in the maple industry, so it was in some ways fitting that we were the first ones to adopt this,” Vermont Maple Syrup Makers’ Association Executive Director Matthew Gordon told Vermont Public Radio.

Gordon says the more descriptive labels are already having an impact, adding that “being able to add just a little bit of description is really a big help, and we’ve had really positive feedback from consumers.”

That could be a sign of sweet times ahead for producers in the rest of the country.


Patrick deHahn

By Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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