Liquid gold: tapping into the power dynamics of maple syrup supply chains

Ramsingh, Brigit orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-7551-4370 (2018) Liquid gold: tapping into the power dynamics of maple syrup supply chains. In: Dublin Gastronomy Symposium 2018, 29-30 May 2018, Dublin, Ireland.

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In 2012, the Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve in Québec was the site of a major food crime, as thieves siphoned off 9600 barrels (3,000 tonnes) of ‘liquid gold’ for counterfeit sale across provincial and state borders, in what became known as the Great Maple Syrup Heist. The heist has been characterized as a rebellious response to the quota controls established by the Federation of Québec Maple Syrup Producers which has, since 1990, agreed with its members to hand over any surplus to ensure stability of supply and pricing. Although the iconography and imagery of the story of maple syrup production still heavily draws upon a nostalgic era of the small farm producer, these events suggest a powerful group which, in the wake of the heist, was branded by some rogue producers as a maple syrup ’cartel’, even though the reserve was decided by the collective membership. Quebec produces approximately 80% of the world supply, and, to consolidate its position the Federation expanded its global marketing campaign, which in 2017 saw the construction of a revised and rebranded new set of ‘4 Grades’ based on translucence, each with associated flavour profiles, and the creation of a maple flavour wheel, all designed to invoke a unique Québec maple terroir.
In this paper I trace the historical evolution of Québec maple syrup production and marketing since the 1930s through to the establishment of the Federation. I consider where power and agency sits - and has shifted - within this supply chain, taking into consideration the implications for small-scale producers and consumers.

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