There are three types of markets for maple syrup: BULK, WHOLESALE and RETAIL. To simplify this discussion, I am using quarts as the unit of measure. Based on typical prices for quarts of maple syrup in Vermont, here is what farmers can expect to be paid:
- $6 - $7 per quart for BULK. In the bulk market, farmers sell barrels of maple syrup to commercial packers who then bottle, package, and distribute the maple syrup to retailers. Most of the maple syrup on the grocery shelves is sold by these large commercial processors. The profit margins are low because of all the middle men. The key to a viable farming business in the bulk market is to sell in high volume; this is not an option for small farms. Almost 90% of the syrup produced in Vermont is sold into the bulk market and small farmers are being squeezed out.
- $14 per quart for WHOLESALE. In this market, the farmers buy the bottle or jug, and then they bottle the syrup and bring it to retailers for resale. The higher wholesale price makes it possible for the farmers to make a profit. There’s a lot of competition in the wholesale market from other farmers, large commercial packers, and imported Canadian maple syrup. It's quite a bit of work for the farmers to deal with delivering to stores and there are headaches associated with keeping the shelves stocked.
- $16 - $30 per quart for RETAIL (then add shipping). These prices are the highest, but much more effort is required from the farmers. They need to sell at farmers’ markets and fairs, or find other in-person ways to sell directly to the customers. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made this sales channel more difficult due to canceled events and a decrease in tourism. But that is changing (phew!!). One option is to turn to online sales, but that certainly has its challenges.
During the pandemic, online sales surged and that may be the new norm. However, the market is increasingly competitive and many small farms are being left behind because they aren't set up for online sales. In today's world, small farmers without an online presence are at a serious disadvantage.
This is where Maple Farmers comes in. We combine the marketing, order processing, and delivery logistics for small farms under one umbrella. By creating an online sales channel, small farmers can now get paid wholesale prices for their maple syrup without having to spend a lot of time and resources. It’s a unique business model that can have far reaching implications in a challenging world.
Whether you are buying maple syrup, vegetables or fresh eggs, buying direct from the farmer helps build a better economy. Food direct from a local farm is always better!