THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- OCTOBER 14, 2017
Do you have pumpkin spice fatigue? Me, too. Enough is enough! I mean, does pumpkin spice really need to be in everything? Just this week I read about pumpkin spice butter, M&M's with a pumpkin spice shell, pumpkin spice deodorant, and pumpkin spice protein powder. What's next, pumpkin spice wiener schnitzel? Don't laugh because things are getting pumpkin spice ridiculous.
If you are pumpkin spice weary, a flavor change may be on the way. I am not sure if this is good news or bad news, but it is different news. “After many autumns in which pumpkin spice reigned supreme, maple could be poised to be the next favorite fall flavor...pumpkin spice products keep coming, but sales aren’t keeping up.” (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/maple-may-end-pumpkin-spices-dominance-as-falls-favorite-flavor-2017-09-01)
I suspected there was a bit of a crack in the pumpkin spice wall when I noticed the reduced numbers of pumpkin spice beers on store shelves this fall. I remembered reading last year that if pumpkin beers did not sell by Halloween they would not sell at all. Last fall, Forbes magazine noted: “The problem: overproduction, oversaturation...for the first time, mass quantities of pumpkin beer sat on the shelves months past their sell-by date and a lot of breweries, wholesalers and retailers lost money. Many declared sudsy pumpkins a dying trend and decided to cut production.” (https://www.forbes.com/sites/taranurin/2016/09/19/is-pumpkin-beers-seasonal-creep-crawling-away-as-lifeless-sales-spook-some-brewers/#43b07a782573)
I am not sure adding maple to everything will be any better than adding pumpkin spice, but as a commodity maple is much more interesting than pumpkin spice.
Any discussion of maple centers around the maple syrup industry. Now, we're not talking about the fake maple syrup made from corn sweeteners. You know, the ones that say “real maple flavor” on the label. This means anything from chemical flavoring added to the corn sweetener truck drove past a maple tree on the way to the syrup factory. We are also not talking about the several local operations that produce high quality pure maple syrup you can find in local farm markets and stores. What we are talking about is “big syrup.”
How big? Really big, in Canada, and called the OPEC of world syrup. “The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, a cooperative marketing group that includes all large-scale syrup producers in the French-speaking province. Quebec produces roughly 70 percent of the world’s maple syrup. The group uses the syrup reserve, consisting of three separate facilities in Quebec, to stabilize prices by socking syrup away when prices are low and selling its sticky inventories in order to add supply when prices are too high.”
How big is the reserve? There are three storage sites, but the largest is in Laurierville, Que., “Thirty eight million pounds stored in 62,800 barrels stacked five or six high. That is just over $100-million worth of sweet indulgence in one spot. Protected by a security system said to rival that of a commercial bank, which means much more is going on than the motion detectors and electronic access panels you can see with the naked eye. The windows have handles but do not open. Alarms will go off if anyone enters the building outside business hours, even employees. Cameras are everywhere. It is not quite Fort Knox. But it is a veritable citadel of sap.”
How serious is Canada about its maple syrup? “Canadian diplomats say it's so prized that it is now worth 25 times as much as oil.” (https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/a-look-inside-quebecs-fort-knox-of-maple-syrup/article22262093/ and https://qz.com/320245/canadas-strategic-maple-syrup-reserve-and-the-economics-behind-it/)
Even so, in 2012 one of the greatest crimes in Canadian history occurred – the Great Maple Syrup Heist. “Thieves made away with six million pounds of syrup from a temporary, rented warehouse. The elaborate heist was big news.”
All the resources imaginable were pressed into service to solve the crime. “The investigation was headed by the Sûreté du Québec police, which was soon joined by the Royal Mounties and U.S. Customs. They promised to spare no expense. Of course it was serious business to FPAQ; nearly 540,000 gallons of syrup had been stolen—12.5 percent of the Reserve—with a street value of $13.4 million.” Long story short, the Mounties got their men. However, not all of the syrup was recovered. (https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/12/maple-syrup-heist)
Thefts aside, the maple syrup business has been good for our friends to the North. “Global demand for maple syrup has been increasing at about 5 to 6 per cent a year since 2010.” Now with maple being the new “hot” flavor on the horizon, I'm sure there will be dancing in the streets of Quebec.
As for me, I have always been a maple aficionado. This can be traced back to my childhood when, in 1956, a new breakfast cereal was introduced, a maple flavored oatmeal called Maypo. The commercials featured a cartoon kid named Marky who wore a too-big cowboy hat. (See a vintage commercial at: https://youtu.be/nSAL198yor0 -- or see it below.)
The ads always ended in a memorable phrase that Marky shouted. You “experienced” breakfast eaters will remember the line. All together now: “I want my Maypo!”