Pure and natural, maple provides a premium punch to a variety of entrées and products.
Although maple is paired primarily with pancakes and waffles as syrup during breakfast, there’s no reason maple syrup and other maple products can’t be used to enhance other foods. Luc Bergeron, founder and co-owner of L.B. Maple Treat Corp., Granby, Quebec, suggests ways consumers can incorporate maple into their everyday lives.
“Maple is a natural sweetener that is good in tea and coffee,” he explains, “and it’s also perfect with oatmeal.”
Daniel Granderson, market research analyst with the Packaged Facts division of Rockville, Md.-based MarketResearch.com, concurs that maple products provide a wholesome alternative to some other sweeteners, but adds that they need to be marketed effectively.
Trends with traction Maple may have a competitive advantage, however, because it can be touted as natural and better for you – two attributes that mesh with the ongoing trend toward health and wellness.
“It contains antioxidants and vitamins,” Bergeron explains. “A University of Rhode Island study from two years ago supports maple’s health benefits.”
A researcher at the University of Rhode Island found compounds in pure maple syrup that contribute to better health, including antioxidants reported to have anti-cancer properties, he says.
This promotion of the antioxidant health benefits could appeal to more consumers and possibly increase maple consumption rates among adults, according to a recent NPD Group “National Eating Trends” study. Data for the study were for the three-year period ending August 2011. Retailers should take note to help promote their products, according to Bergeron.
Trends on the horizon Granderson suggests that food gifting and the promotion of maple as an ingredient also could present opportunities for manufacturers and retailers.
“In the past, maple products were often sold for use by consumers as is, without any transformation or refined presentation,” he explains. “More recently, the industry is looking to expand their product[s] in the gift and ingredient market. Examples of this include more elaborate packaging, infused maple syrup products, more frequent uses as a topping on other food products such as popcorn, peanuts and so on.”
Mary Chapman, director, product innovation for Chicago-based market research firm Technomic, says interest in maple appears to be growing on the foodservice side, where retail trends often start. Her company’s MenuMonitor resource – which tracks the menus of the top 500 restaurant chains – shows the use of maple up 5 percent in the third quarter of 2012 compared to the third quarter of 2011, though the incidence remains fairly low.
“Most new items are breakfast – French toast, pancakes, oatmeal – or dessert,” she explains. “But Lone Star [Steakhouse] added a maple-ancho glazed pork chop, and Souplantation offers a side of maple-glazed sweet potato with apple, cranberries and walnuts.”
The percentage of Americans who regularly consume real maple syrup more than doubled between 2005 and 2010, from 2.5 percent to 6.4 percent, according to the NPD study. Consumers who do consume maple syrup eat it about once a week. However, the report cites information from the USDA that indicates overall consumption of all-natural edible syrups, which includes real maple syrup, has remained virtually unchanged in the last decade.
Claude Champagne, president and CEO of L.B. Maple Treat, adds that the demand for organic maple products is expanding, driven by Costco’s new organic maple syrup.