The majority of maple syrup is produced in Quebec, Canada. They turn out 75% of the world’s production annually, approximatelyÂ 6,300,000 gallons of syrup. Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island also produce smaller amounts of maple syrup. In the US, Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup with about 5.5% of the global supply. New York and Maine are also responsible for a generous amount of US maple syrup production, with states like Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Michigan and a handful of others producing much smaller amounts of syrup. Maple syrup is an absolutely delicious ingredient to have on hand, for adding to coffee, topping pancakes and baking, but it can be quite confusing to buy because every growing region labels their products differently, so consumers don’t have any solid system to go by when reading labels.
Generally speaking, most US growers are currently calling their Grade A or Grade B, with A (sometimes called “fancy” or “light”) syrups being much lighter in color and flavor than Grade B. In Canada, again generally speaking, syrups are classified as No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3, with syrups in the No. 1 category being much lighter in color than No. 2 and 3. Many maple syrup lovers gravitate towards the darker syrups – even though you might intuitively expect the No. 1 and Grade A “Fancy” syrups to be of higher quality (which they are not, despite their names) – because they are the most flavorful syrups.
The International Maple Syrup Institute, the maple syrup industry’s largest trade group, thinks that maple syrup needs to be more clearly labeled and marketed to sell more without confusing consumers. It’s a very good thought, since uniform labeling would make the different types of syrup clearer to consumers. Unfortunately, the new ideas they had about labeling aren’t much clearer than the old ones. Growers and consumers have spent decades getting to know the current systems and aren’t necessarily ready to change to something completely different. But the state of Vermont agreed with the trade group and is pushing the labeling changes ahead starting next year. This means that next year, all retail syrup in Vermont will be labeled “Grade A” because it sounds superior to lower letters of the alphabet. Instead, syrup will be classified in a much more confusing way, “by a “descriptor” based on color, clarity and taste: Golden/Delicate Taste; Amber/Rich Taste; Dark/Robust Taste; and Very Dark/Strong Taste.” So that means that you’ll be looking for “Grade A Very Dark/Strong Taste” and not “Grade A Golden/Delicate Taste” when you shop for Vermont maple syrup.
As a consumer, continue to shop by color and know that the darker the syrup, the more flavorful it will be no matter how it is labeled. But when you encounter labels that you aren’t familiar with, try to take the time to look them up so you end up with a high quality syrup that also meets (or exceeds) your flavor expectations.