Maple Syrup to Asia

by Tig Tillinghast

The barrels of syrup below represent the annual production of tens of acres of hardwood forest, preserved for yet another year as a working landscape. These particular ones are headed to a new Asian client.
Getting through the rigamarole of exporting, customs, clearing, various certifications is a pretty high bar, but once it is all done, the subsequent shipments are much easier. Henry Marckres, of the State of Vermont, was hugely helpful in quickly getting some necessary documents put together and stamped in various fashions.

While there is a very strong localvore movement here in Vermont, we can protect a lot more forest by selling to export markets than we can by selling in the farmers markets.

In the export market, the big competition is the Canadians, who spend quite a bit of money marketing their syrup worldwide, largely as a single trading cooperative. Their marketing can sometimes sound as though they are talking down the maple syrup produced in the U.S. Speaking to several prospective Asian clients over the last year, as I have, you definitely get the impression that they’re being told frequently about the “unique” qualities of Canadian syrup.

I figure the best answer to that is sending barrels of maple syrup overseas so that people can see for themselves. We produced a brochure for international clients that can be seen here.

In South Korea, there has long been a market for maple sap, rather than maple syrup. They call the sap gorosoe. Sap, however, is impractical to transport half-way across the world, as it requires storage systems similar to those required by milk. Once it’s concentrated into maple syrup, it is sufficiently stable to ship. Reconstituting sap from syrup (adding water) can be done, but it will contain the diluted maple flavor of maple syrup. Uncooked sap does not.