New Maple Syrup Grades Coming Soon

The International Maple Syrup Institute (IMSI) has targeted adoption of a new maple grading system for the 2015 maple production season, subject to obtaining regulatory approvals. The IMSI represents most U.S. state and Canadian provincial maple producer associations, as well as maple packers and maple research institutions. The decision to revamp the grading system came about based on a comprehensive review of existing maple grades, nomenclature, current regulations in the U.S. and Canada, as well as consumer research findings on maple flavour. The goal is to provide a single reference for the entire maple industry and its consumers and to end bias against the darker syrups, which because of its "Grade B" or “No. 2” labeling has been equated with an inferior product. While these revisions are coming, not all maple syrup producers know or understand them yet.

The new standards are, in large part, meant to reduce confusion. It is less important to those who sell locally to their neighbours than it is to those that cater to out of province (mail order, web order, and retail crossing provincial or international jurisdictions). The number of syrup classes has been reduced which also helps reduce confusion and the light transmittance breakpoints are very easy to remember compared to the old system. Altogether, it is a simpler system that has more information to help consumers pick what they want. This is NOT a government driven change. It was proposed and developed entirely within the maple industry. There is flexibility to allow producers and packers to put other things on the labels as long as the required descriptors are also on there.

The IMSI standards are not mandatory, but the organization is recommending them for all maple regulatory agencies in the U.S. and Canada. Once the new standard is adopted by the regulatory agency in a particular state or province, maple producers and packers will have to comply with the new standard. It will be up to state and provincial maple regulatory authorities to decide if the new standard will be mandatory or voluntary. Enforcement and compliance will be entirely up to the government agency responsible.

The changes encompass the following:
•All current grading systems used will be eliminated and replaced by a single, international, standardized grading system.
•Only two grades will exist: Grade A (for retail sale) and a Processing Grade.
•Grade A will have four colour classes, each having its own quality descriptors, which will eliminate the current discrimination against darker syrup.
•Grade A can be any colour, but no off-flavours are permitted to be sold.
•Any syrup that does not qualify for Grade A (including off-flavoured syrup) must be labeled as "Processing Grade." This syrup may not be sold in retail markets and must be packed in 5-gallon or larger containers.
•Pure maple syrup can only be produced from the concentration of maple sap or from the solution or dilution of another pure maple product in potable water (reconstituting maple sugar into syrup)
•Syrup must fall between 66.0 and 68.9 on the Brix scale. Recommended in the 66.5-67.5 range for best flavour.
•Must comply with federal and provincial regulations for contaminants.
•Must comply with federal and provincial regulations such as labeling, standard containers, etc.
•Must have proper determination of grade and colour class
•Must be traceable to batch (have a recordable code on container)

Impact to producers:
•Labeling will change, whether through adhesive labels or silk-screening changes for those with private labeling.
•A new grading set will be required but a transition time will be allowed.
•Changes will not go into effect until at least 2014 and are subject to regulatory approval.
•More strictly identifies and regulates off-flavoured maple products.
•Producer can continue to apply creativity with label design and additional marketing descriptors in addition to the standard at their discretion.
•Producers will have to educate new consumers in the new grading system, but can correlate it to the existing system for long-time customers. This is a great opportunity to dialogue with consumers about the product.
•Maple producers will be identified as a unified voice when needed to face any issues regarding the industry as a whole, such as adulteration of syrup, misleading advertising, etc
Sep 20, 2014