Increasing maple producer sales and incomes with quality value-added products

Final Report for LNE06-246

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $63,800.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Grant Recipient: Cornell University
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Peter Smallidge
Cornell University
Co-Leaders:
Stephen Childs
Cornell University
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Project Information

Summary:

The primary focus of the first year of the project “Increasing Maple Producer Sales and Incomes with Quality Value Added Products” was to collect the best information available on making quality maple confections and begin research on improving their quality, shelf life and marketability. We then developed this information into a Maple Confections Notebook for producers with 236 pages of detailed training and directions for 25 different maple products.

We were to conduct workshops to educate producers on improved methods of evaluating maple syrup for its suitability for making confections and procedures for making, pricing and marketing value added maple products for on-site consumption. In 2006 and 2007, 21 such workshops were held with 306 participants representing 184 maple operations and 23 Extension personnel. In 2008 and 2009 26 more workshops were conducted with 434 participants representing 240 farms. The total number of participants stands at 740 from 424 maple farms and including 44 extension personal receiving the trainings, with each workshop representing an average of six hours of instruction this would add up to 4400 hours of participant instruction. Workshops were divided into a level one workshop dealing with the basics of invert sugar in maple syrup, sugar crystal formation and the making of maple cream, granulated sugar, molded sugar and crystal coating. The second level workshop demonstrates the production of an array of maple products suitable for retail marketing and on site consumption. Currently 282 maple producers of the 740 total attended the second level workshop, representing 174 farms, and 458 have attended the first level workshop.

Following the initial review of a number of methods of measuring invert sugar in maple syrup, research conducted at the Cornell Food Venture Center verified the use of the common diabetic meter for these measurements. The Center has also completed research on improved guidelines for maple jelly, maple sugar straws, maple marshmallow, single-serve sealed maple sugar containers, maple syrup straws, maple slushies, maple smoothies, maple soft drinks, maple meringues, and 100 percent maple suckers. The Maple Confections Notebook has been developed and distributed to over 800 maple producers and Extension personnel for their use and evaluation.

The total number of workshops conducted was 47 with 740 participants from 424 maple farms and included 44 extension personnel. Of these 47 workshops, 37 were held in New York, three in Pennsylvania, three in Ohio, two in Wisconsin and two in Quebec. The participating producers averaged about 21 years of maple production experience. Producers who participated reported that they produced about 122,987 gallons of syrup annually from 494,184 reported taps.

157 maple farms responded to evaluations to determine change in their operations 4 months to one year after taking a workshop. Of these 157, 46 percent claimed to be making value added products new to their business since taking the first class. 82 percent claimed to be having better success making maple value added products and 57 percent claimed to be selling an average of 32 percent more maple value added products. Eighty one percent of this same group of maple farms claimed to be using the equipment introduced in the workshops to test syrup for its confection qualities using diabetic glucose meters to select the correct syrup for making maple value added products. Twenty six of the farms indicated that they had begun selling at a retail location new for their farm.

Through cooperation with the Cornell Food Venture Center, a variety of new maple products previously unknown or under utilized by maple producers were developed, complete production instructions were added to the Confection Notebook and added to the trainings so producers could have firsthand experience making and sampling the new products.

Marketing evaluations were conducted with a variety of potential maple value added products to see what potential consumer acceptance might be like. These proved valuable in convincing maple producers of the potential value of new maple products.

A maple enterprise financial summary was introduced with limited success as few maple producers were willing to shared income and expense data. However, with 7 cooperators providing information, some insight into the profitability of maple could be tracked.

Introduction:

Maple producers need to sell more of their syrup as value added products. While a significant portion of maple products are sold at fairs, farmers markets, shows, open houses and festivals, there has been a serious lack of maple products designed for customers to consume directly at these settings.

This project seeks to increase the diversity, quality and profitability of maple production without tapping an additional tree, making another trip to the sugar bush, or purchasing major equipment. Profitable maple sugar making leads to sustainable forests, managed to provide consistent farmer income rather than destructive harvest that gives the farm family a one time enhancement. Maple confections are natural, healthy sweeteners and flavor ingredient. Making maple production a more profitable enterprise can help farmers meet family financial expectations. Through new maple product development, market trails, detailed instructions, and hands-on instruction, maple producers bring some new profitable maple value added products to the retail marketplace.

Performance Target:

Through maple product research and participation in maple kitchen value added workshops, improve profits of 35 of the 50 participating maple producers by 20 percent by expanded retail sales of new value-added maple products to be consumed on site at fairs, farmers markets, shows and festivals.

With the huge participation in this project we were able to improve the sales of more than 35 maple producers as proposed.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Stephen Childs

Research

Materials and methods:

This project initially involved researching what was currently available in the way of detailed instructions for making maple value added products starting with the most common maple confections granulated maple sugar, maple sugar cakes or molded maple sugar, crystal coating of the sugar pieces and finally maple cream or spread. The purpose in researching these was the realization that some of the potential products that would be for on site consumption would have one or more of these as components. Second we searched for instructions for current popular sugar based concessions where a maple sugar substitution could be made. The Cornell Food Venture in earlier research on “shelf stable maple cream” had introduced the concept of treating maple syrup with invertase to convert its sucrose component into glucose and fructose thereby greatly expanding how syrup could be used and substituted in recipes for corn syrup in addition to simply substituting for the granulated sugar.

Research was also conducted to evaluate if the common diabetic glucose meter would be a reliable tool to check maple syrup for its natural level of invert sugars glucose and fructose. These sugars in maple syrup at too low levels can cause premature crystallization of batches and a hard, course confection. At the correct level can result in a high quality product and at to high levels result in poor or no proper crystals forming that are needed to make the product. The diabetic meter was found to be reliable and practical for this use. Through literature search, experiments and testing with maple producers who were currently making value added maple products, suggested levels of these invert sugars in each of the maple confections were identified and added to the instructions provided in the Confection Notebook.

Once the protocols for using diabetic meters for evaluating maple syrup were developed and the Maple Confection Notebooks were in reasonable draft form, a Power Point presentation and workshop outline were produced and workshops scheduled through county and regional Extension offices and with local maple producer associations. Through the workshops, baseline information was provided by participants to follow changes in their operations as a result of their participation. Attendees were also invited to participate in a financial summary to follow changes in individual businesses over the term of the project. Participants were also recruited to test the suggested invert sugar levels in making their value added products and report back any suggestions of changes.

Each of the new or improved maple value added products was demonstrated at the workshops and evaluated by the participants at the workshops as to their perceived market value. In addition, several products tastings were conducted at other maple school settings and several of the products were market tested at the New York Empire Farms Days and at the New York State Fair.

Research results and discussion:

The first milestone was to notify 600 maple producers of workshop opportunities. This was accomplished through media releases, announcement at maple meetings, maple producer association mailings and through county extension offices. Many more than 600 maple producers were notified to the project. Notices for workshops were always listed in the Maple Digest, Maple News, Farming Magazine, Country Folks, the New York State Association publication The Pipeline and the Pennsylvania newsletter the Dropline, as well as many county and regional newsletters of Cornell Cooperative Extension. All workshops were also listed on the New York State Maple Producers Association web page, Cornell Maple Program web page and Maple Trader web page. Notice was also given to over 1000 maple producers who attend the New York State Maple Conference and other regional and local maple schools. Promotion was also conducted through Penn State and Ohio State Extension programs.

By 12 months the Extension and Food Venture Center staff was to have compiled and tested a draft set of recipes and standards for new value added maple products appropriate for on market site consumption and the maple specialist was to incorporate this into a Maple Confections Notebook.

The Center did complete research on improved guidelines for maple jelly, maple syrup straws, maple sugar straws, maple marshmallow, single serve sealed maple syrup and maple sugar containers, maple slushies, maple smoothies, maple soft drinks, maple meringues and 100 percent maple suckers. Additional work on maple taffy, maple hard candy, maple coated pop corn, maple coated nuts, maple coated raisins and maple sugar wafer cookies by the maple specialist. The Maple Confections Notebook was updated and improved to the current 4th edition and distributed to over 800 maple producers and Extension personal for their use and evaluation.

The third milestone is to occur by 18 months with 50 maple producers and 5 county extension educators completing a current practices assessment and participating in one day value added kitchen workshops at one of 5 locations around NY, PA and OH.

The total number of workshops conducted was 47 with 740 participants from 424 maple farms and included 44 extension personal receiving the training. Of these 47 workshops 37 were held in New York, three in Pennsylvania, three in Ohio, two in Wisconsin and two in Quebec. The participating producers averaged about 21 years of maple production experience. Producers who participated reported that they produced about 122,987 gallons of syrup annually from 494,184 reported taps. With each workshop consisting of about 6 hours of instruction participant received 4440 hours of training.

Producers from 128 farms took the Maple Confection I session four months to one year prior to taking the Maple Confection II session and were able to respond to questions about significant changes that resulted in their maple enterprises. Of these 157 maple farms 46 percent claimed to be making value added products new to their business since taking the first class. 82 percent claimed to be having better success making maple value added products and 57 percent claimed to be selling an average of 32 percent more maple value added products. Eighty one percent of this same group of maple farms claimed to be using the equipment introduced in the workshops to test syrup for its confection qualities using a diabetic glucose meter to select the correct syrup for making maple value added products. Twenty six of the farms indicated that they had begun selling at a retail location new for their farm.

At 20 months 12 producer volunteers are to have completed costs of production and marketing cost evaluations.

Only 7 of the attending maple producers completed the in-depth financial study of the impact of making and marketing value added products on their business profitability. Each year each participant received the summary of their own data followed by a summary of the average of all the participants for comparison. The three-year summary is attached as a word file called income and expense.

As both the participants and the production conditions varied from year to year it is difficult to draw conclusions from the summary of all participants over the three years of data collected. Income from year to year in both retail and wholesale maple confection sales was highly variable. Even though initially when surveyed many maple producers expressed interest in participating in a financial summary program, when it came down to putting their income and expense information down on paper and submitting it for analysis by the maple specialist, very few followed through. Both participation and the numbers provided by the producers varied dramatically from year to year. The conclusion I draw from this is that maple producers need more training in record keeping and financial management. It is obvious that producers were not entering financial information consistently into the same income and expense categories from year to year for the same business activity. This portion of the project was a significant disappointment.

By 22 months five cooperative sub-groups of producers from the workshops will have conducted test markets where new products were made and sold and profit evaluated at five fairs, shows or festivals.

Empire Farm Days 2006,2007, 2009- Maple Pop, Maple Cheese Cake, Flavored Maple Creams, Maple Sugar Straws, and Re-hydratred granulated Maple Sugar

Maple Weekend – at the Arnot Forest 2006-2009 maple cotton and maple candy for on site consumption

Flyway Farm maple weekend 2008-2009 maple meringues, Merle and flavored maple cream

Franklinville Maple Festival 2009 by Wright’s Maple Farm – maple pop
Maple Weekend at Shaver-Hill Farm 2008 – maple pop

The New York State Maple Producers Association state fair booth has been a site for observing the success of various maple value added products. Between 2007 and 2008 the booth received a significant exterior upgrade and added maple ice cream, maple milk shakes and maple slushies with sales increasing 50% over 2007 from about $84,000 to over $126,000 in 2008. In 2009 maple cream coated donuts and more flavored maple creams were added and sales grew to over $140,000 in 2009. In 2009 we also tested the weight of maple product in maple cotton and conducted a cost and income evaluation that indicated the potential gross income from one gallon of maple syrup made into maple cotton to be $512.

At 25 months two hundred maple producers who did not attend the kitchen workshops will be classroom trained and have access to the recipes, standards and profit potential of the new value added products at sessions of the winter maple schools.

At the 2007 New York State Maple Conference over 150 maple producers received instruction on making maple cream, maple coated nuts, and maple cotton. At the 2008 New York State Maple Conference over 150 attendees attended one or more sessions where training in the use of the glucose meters was demonstrated and Confection Notebooks made available. Two of these were taught by the New York State Maple Specialist focusing on maple marshmallow and maple suckers. Three others sessions were taught by confection workshop participants who had been using the project information and were anxious to demonstrate it to others. Their trainings focused on granulated maple sugar, maple cream, maple candy, crystal coating and maple coated popcorn. The 2009 Maple Conference had four more of these sessions again taught by our program participants. More than 200 attended at least one of these session focused on maple granola, maple cream, maple granulated sugar, maple candy and crystal coating. Fifty participants had the same experience of being trained in making value added products by a student of this program at the 2008 Western New York Maple School. Over twenty attended a confection short course held at the 2008 Lewis County Maple School given by the NYS Maple Specialist. Over 100 were present for demonstrations and introduction to the Confection Notebook at the Leader Evaporator open house in April of 2008 in Vermont. In 2009 over 150 attended a confection training provided by the maple specialist where the Confection Notebook and the new syrup testing procedure was demonstrated in New Hampshire.

By 30 months NY Maple Weekend participants will be evaluated for having marketed value added products on maple weekend 2008. This evaluation showed that many participants of the New York Maple Weekend need to do a better job of promoting the fact that value added products and demonstrations of making these products on Maple Weekend will be available at the open houses. Less than 40 percent featured value added products in promotional materials even though many had them available and some even were demonstrating their making.

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

There were several key education efforts extended as part of this project. First the confection workshops, the total number of workshops conducted was 47 with 740 participants from 424 maple farms and included 44 extension personal receiving the training. Of these 47 workshops 37 were held in New York, three in Pennsylvania, three in Ohio, two in Wisconsin and two in Quebec. The participating producers averaged about 21 years of maple production experience. Producers who participated reported that they produced about 122,987 gallons of syrup annually from 494,184 reported taps. These workshops were run in cooperation with funding provided by the New York State Farm Viability Institute. Second training sessions were held in combination with the NYS Maple Conference, other maple schools and maple open houses. At the 2007 New York State Maple Conference over 150 maple producers received instruction on making maple cream, maple coated nuts, and maple cotton. At the 2008 New York State Maple Conference over 150 attendees attended one or more sessions where training in the use of the glucose meters was demonstrated and Confection Notebooks made available. Two of these were taught by the New York State Maple Specialist focusing on maple marshmallow and maple suckers. Three others sessions were taught by confection workshop participants who had been using the project information and were anxious to demonstrate it to others. Their trainings focused on granulated maple sugar, maple cream, maple candy, crystal coating and maple coated popcorn. The 2009 Maple Conference had four more of these sessions again taught by our program participants. More than 200 attended at least one of these session focused on maple granola, maple cream, maple granulated sugar, maple candy and crystal coating. Fifty participants had the same experience of being trained in making value added products by a student of this program at the 2008 Western New York Maple School. Over twenty attended a confection short course held at the 2008 Lewis County Maple School given by the NYS Maple Specialist. Over 100 were present for demonstrations and introduction to the Confection Notebook at the Leader Evaporator open house in April of 2008 in Vermont. In 2009 over 150 attended a confection training provided by the maple specialist where the Confection Notebook and the new syrup testing procedure was demonstrated in New Hampshire. Third, articles on various aspects of the project and workshops were printed in the Maple News, Country Folks, The Pipeline the publication of the New York State Maple Producers Association, various county Extension newsletters as well as on the Cornell Maple webpage, the New York Maple Producers Association webpage and the commercial site called Mapletrader.

No milestones

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

The primary focus of the first year of the project “Increasing Maple Producer Sales and Incomes with Quality Value Added Products” was to collect the best information available on making quality maple confections and begin research on improving their quality, shelf life and marketability. We then developed this information into a Maple Confections Notebook for producers with 236 pages of detailed training and directions for 25 different maple products. We were to conduct workshops to educate producers on improved methods of evaluating maple syrup for its suitability for making confections and procedures for making, pricing and marketing value added maple products for on site consumption. In 2006 and 2007 twenty one such workshops were held with 306 participants representing 184 maple operations and 23 Extension personal. In 2008 and 2009 26 more workshops were conducted with 434 participants representing 240 farms. The total number of participants stands at 740 from 424 maple farms and including 44 extension personal receiving the trainings. With each workshop representing an average of six hours of instruction, this would add up to 4400 hours of participant instruction. Workshops were divided into a level one workshop dealing with the basics of invert sugar in maple syrup, sugar crystal formation and the making of maple cream, granulated sugar, molded sugar and crystal coating. The second level workshop demonstrates the production of an array of maple products suitable for retail marketing and on site consumption. Currently 282 maple producers of the 740 total attended the second level workshop representing 174 farms and 458 have attended the first level workshop.

Following the initial review of a number of methods of measuring invert sugar in maple syrup, research conducted at the Cornell Food Venture Center verified the use of the common diabetic meter for these measurements. The Center has also completed research on improved guidelines for maple jelly, maple syrup straws, maple sugar straws, maple marshmallow, single serve sealed maple sugar containers, maple slushies, maple smoothies, maple soft drinks, maple meringues, and 100 percent maple suckers. The Maple Confections Notebook has been developed and distributed to over 800 maple producers and Extension personal for their use and evaluation. The total number of workshops conducted was 47 with 740 participants from 424 maple farms and included 44 extension personal receiving the training. Of these 47 workshops 37 were held in New York, three in Pennsylvania, three in Ohio, two in Wisconsin and two in Quebec. The participating producers averaged about 21 years of maple production experience. Producers who participated reported that they produced about 122,987 gallons of syrup annually from 494,184 reported taps.
157 maple farms responded to evaluations to determine change in their operations 4 months to one year after taking a workshop. Of these 157, 46 percent claimed to be making value added products new to their business since taking the first class. 82 percent claimed to be having better success making maple value added products and 57 percent claimed to be selling an average of 32 percent more maple value added products. Eighty one percent of this same group of maple farms claimed to be using the equipment introduced in the workshops to test syrup for its confection qualities using diabetic glucose meters to select the correct syrup for making maple value added products. Twenty six of the farms indicated that they had begun selling at a retail location new for their farm.

Through cooperation with the Cornell Food Venture Center, a variety of new maple products previously unknown or under utilized by maple producers were developed, complete production instructions were added to the Confection Notebook and added to the trainings so producers could have first hand experience making and sampling the new products.

The New York State Maple Producers Association state fair booth has been a site for observing the success of various maple value added products. Between 2007 and 2008 the booth received a significant exterior upgrade and added maple ice cream, maple milk shakes and maple slushies with sales increasing 50% over 2007 from about $84,000 to over $126,000 in 2008. In 2009 maple cream coated donuts and more flavored maple creams were added and sales grew to over $140,000 in 2009. In 2009 we also tested the weight of maple product in maple cotton and conducted a cost and income evaluation that indicated the potential gross income from one gallon of maple syrup made into maple cotton to be $512.

Economic Analysis

157 maple farms responded to evaluations to determine change in their operations 4 months to one year after taking a workshop. Of these 157, 46 percent claimed to be making value added products new to their business since taking the first class. 82 percent claimed to be having better success making maple value added products and 57 percent claimed to be selling an average of 32 percent more maple value added products. Eighty one percent of this same group of maple farms claimed to be using the equipment introduced in the workshops to test syrup for its confection qualities using diabetic glucose meters to select the correct syrup for making maple value added products. Twenty six of the farms indicated that they had begun selling at a retail location new for their farm.

Farmer Adoption

157 maple farms responded to evaluations to determine change in their operations 4 months to one year after taking a workshop. Of these 157, 46 percent claimed to be making value added products new to their business since taking the first class. 82 percent claimed to be having better success making maple value added products and 57 percent claimed to be selling an average of 32 percent more maple value added products. Eighty one percent of this same group of maple farms claimed to be using the equipment introduced in the workshops to test syrup for its confection qualities using diabetic glucose meters to select the correct syrup for making maple value added products. Twenty six of the farms indicated that they had begun selling at a retail location new for their farm.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

There is continued need for study into the best packaging, point of sale educational materials, and new and improved maple value added products. The is also a continuing demand for more of these workshops, especially in maple production areas outside of New York.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.