Bye Bye Grade B Maple Syrup

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

Maple syrup is a traditional and whole sweetener that has consistently played an integral part of the economies of North America ever since Native Americans first taught the early European settlers how to tap maple trees and boil down the sap to make this homely sweetener.

Maple syrup derived early in the season at the time of the spring thaw runs sweet and clear.  It takes about 20-30 gallons of boiled down sap to make one gallon of light amber colored syrup, labeled as Grade A.

Late in the season, maple sap thins out and grows watery.  Much more than 20-30 gallons of sap must be boiled down to yield syrup of equal sweetness.   Boiling down more sap to concentrate the sweetness also concentrates the flavor and nutrients.

This late season syrup is darker, more maple flavored, and higher in minerals than the Grade A syrup and is currently labeled as Grade B.

The blander, lighter syrup typically commands the highest price as consumers tend to prefer sweetness without too much flavor.

Consumers in the know, however, choose the Grade B syrup for the higher mineral and nutritional content.   These savvy consumers have long enjoyed lower prices for the Grade B product, but this may soon be ending.

By 2013, new international standards for labeling maple syrup will come into effect with Grade B no longer used.   The new system for categorizing maple syrup is designed with the express purpose of eliminating discrimination against the darker syrup.

As a result, all maple syrup will be labeled Grade A with four identifying colors:  Golden, Amber, Dark, and Very Dark.

With all syrups labeled the same, equality in pricing is the anticipated result.

So, stock up on Grade B while you still can.   Once the inferior Grade B is removed from the label, this most flavorful and nutritious of syrups will be commanding a higher price much the same as the lighter colored, blander, and more plentiful syrup.

An important thing to also know about maple syrup is the very different production practices between conventional and organic. This article details the differences that will likely have any educated consumers switching brands in a hurry!

For more on whole, nutritious sweeteners, check out my videoblog on the subject and be sure to check out vetted producers on my Resources page.


Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Source:   Making the Grade:  Why the Cheapest Maple Syrup Tastes Best

Photo Credit


Comments (82)

  1. Pingback: Rosewater-Scented Pistachio no-bake Cookies (Grain-Free & Vegan) |

  2. This is interesting, because that four-tier system is similar to the one used in Ontario.

    However, they do not map one-to-one! I purchased a sampler of all four Canadian grades from a sugar bush near St. Catharines, Ontario, and I found that Grade B was most similar to the “Amber” designation. The “Dark” syrup, on the other hand, was nearly molasses-like in flavor, incredibly rich. I’ve never found the like here in the U.S.

  3. Hi. I have been researching maple syrup and can find no evidence that grade B is any better than grade A. Can you tell me where I could find information on this? From what I have read it seems to all be about the time of year the syrup is tapped. And that grade A is not different and does not have less mineral content. I seriously can not find any info showing other wise. In the big sceme of things, I don’t think grade B can be all that much better for you. I think it really comes down to matter of taste preference. But I’m not sure this a food item to get hung up on. It is fascinating to learn all of this though.

  4. Pingback: Rosewater-Scented Pistachio Raw Cookies (Grain-Free & Vegan) |

  5. Pingback: Say Goodbye to Grade B Maple Syrup | Delicious Obsessions

  6. Thanks for posting this as well everything else you post!

    Looks like now, not only do I need to buy a cow so I can have raw milk but now I need a maple tree so I can get the syrup I want. Ugggg! The government needs to keep their hands out of our food!

  7. i just called my maple farmer and he says that there isnt a difference in the mineral content between the grades.. now im lost.. i always thought grade b was best.. this is local, handmade, kosher and organic syrup.. green mountain maple sugar refining company in belvidere center vermont.. any advice anyone??

    by the way, warming maple on the stove top and melting in chunks of butter is just wonderful..

    -jason and lisa-

  8. This really stinks, and it sounds like it’s a great argument for sourcing your maple syrup from a small, family-run operation. Know your maple farmer.

      • What a load all the way around. Point to one credible scientific study that shows Grade B has higher concentrations of nutrients. All maple syrup is 66 degrees Brix. Grade A Fancy takes less sap to get there, and thus far less cooking time than Grade A medium, and so on, down to Grade B. That’s because there is more sugar in the sap that is used for Grade A. Or, in other words, there is more water in the sap that is used for Grade B. Do you seriously believe that the water that dilutes the sugars in the saps that are used for Grade B doesn’t also dilute the nutrients? And, that when you boil the sap down to Grade B and reach the same sugar concentration (66 Brix) that you don’t end up with the same nutrient concentration as well. If anything, since Grade B is more processed (longer boiling times) it probably has fewer of the volatile nutrients. Which is exactly what the science says in testing the various grades. Grade B has a darker color, and sometimes stronger flavor (which means that the boiling did result in heavier ends), but it does not have a significantly greater nutritional profile.

  9. Very interesting. Just bought some “Grade B” maple syrup yesterday and was wondering why the price was considerably cheaper than the “Grade A” bottles. A farmer at the farmers’ market had told me that Grade B is more nutritious a couple of years ago, and I stuck with buying that from then on. It sucks that they’re changing the system to make it more costly for the good stuff :-/

  10. Very interesting. Just bought some “Grade B” maple syrup yesterday and was wondering why the price was considerably cheaper than the “Grade A” bottles. A farmer at the farmers’ market had told me that Grade B is more nutritious a couple of years ago, and I stuck with buying that from then on. It sucks that they’re changing the system to make it more costly for the good stuff :-/

  11. Thank you! You always keep me on the up and up! We have been buying Grade B forever. This is so sad to see. I am also worried that the syrups labelled “dark” will be manipulated somehow, making it hard to discern if you are buying a true grade B or a grade A with dyes or something. How would we know? ;(


  12. I didn’t know there was a difference in price in the US due to “no” current law. In northern Ontario (Canada), it’s all the same price (ie. expensive!). We live in the US but always buy our syrup when we go back to Canada. Honestly, I would see cheaper syrup prices here (MI and WI) from time to time but have always questioned the quality to see the price less than the “going rate” in Canada. We always buy dark … will have to look to buy some here before the rate hike — now that I know it is lack of a law and not quality (hopefully) allowing for a lower price.

  13. This may have been asked already but I don’t have time to read through all the posts, so here goes. The maple syrup laws in Canada may be different than here in the US, so maybe if you find a Canadian source you can still get the original grade B? It may cost a bit more for shipping, but might be worth it for a quality product. Guess it wouldn’t hurt to check. I have an uncle who is a Quebecois, so I might ask him to check the law and see if Canada will be having the same restrictions.

  14. Pavil, the Uber Noob November 16, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    We will need to stay up-to-date on product recommendations. The silver lining is that these obfuscation of products provides an opportunity for enterprises like WAPF to certify products under its own seal. I would trust a WAPF seal before I trusted any government or trade group seal of approval.

    Ciao, Pavil

  15. Ugh!! Now that the “Grade A” label will be totally meaningless (since there’s only one grade!) this just becomes yet another ploy by the food industry to trick us into thinking a product is superior by deceptive labeling. Just like “raw” cheese (that isn’t), “hormone-free” CAFO meat (hormones are illegal in all meat), “all natural” HFCS… I could go on and on….

  16. Please note the part about the international standards coming to bear on this – this is Agenda 21 hitting us. Same for the animal ID scheme – they are putting a 15 digit ISO number on each animal. We are being drug into an international community and our national sovereignty is being done away with…as are our independent freedoms, rights and liberties (such as the right to own private property). The food “safety” bill that was passed into law during the lame duck session last fall (passed unanimous in the Senate the second time around) gives control of ALL food to the head of the FDA and international guidelines are being implemented. Welcome to the Borg…it’s called the One World Government.

  17. The food industry wants all food to be the same. They do not want anyone to have an alternative to the inferior products they produce. This move to treat all maple syrup as one grade is just another move in this direction.

  18. Wow I never understood the “grading” of maple syrups so thanks for the info! I checked my fridge and thankfully I had bought Coombs Family Farms organic maple syrup (grade B)! Yeah!

  19. Maretta Stiles via Facebook November 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Already about the same price as grade A dark around here (grade B tastes burned to me). Any thoughts on whether it’s important to buy organic maple syrup? Or if it’s one of the few items I don’t need to worry about as much?

    • I doubt organic is an issue, since it’s not a spray crop. You’d have to check, but I’d also be surprised if there were chemicals used for filtration. No other inpacts of organic designation seem to apply – but if someone knows for sure, I’d be interested to learn more!

  20. Donna Mathesius Tapp via Facebook November 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I remember a few years ago you could get a jug of syrup for around 6 bucks and now it is near $20! in my neck of the woods. I wish healthy foods and healthier alternatives weren’t so expensive says this mama of a larger family. sigh!

  21. Barbara Torrey Centofante via Facebook November 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    How long does maple syrup keep?
    *Unopened containers will keep for a minimum of 3 years. Store in a dark, cool place.
    *Opened containers must be kept in the refrigerator and will keep up to 1 year.

  22. Am I misunderstanding?? The now grade b syrup will still be there, it will just be called something different?? If that is the case, it wouldnt be all that bad as long as there were no added colors or dyes to alter the syrups color.. Wouldnt the extra dark be the grade b??

    -Jason and Lisa-

    • except that she’s saying that it will COST more… like light and dark colors will have the same price, whereas now the grade B is significantly cheaper. and they’re certainly not going to DROP the price of the popular light colored syrup, duh.
      what makes you think they won’t add “natural dyes”… with changes like this, you invite unscrupulous companies to start adding colors instead of having mineral rich syrup.

  23. Pingback: No More Grade B??? « Southeast Kansas Buying Club

  24. Thanks for the heads up, Sarah! I can understand this labeling move from a marketing perspective. Golden, Amber, Dark, and Very Dark sound like options, whereas Grade B does imply an inferior, less quality product. I will take your advice and load up on as much as I can before the inevitable price hike.

  25. Beth Ross Houston via Facebook November 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    How long can you store this for? I have a great co-op in my area and by it in bulk but it is actually just as expensive due to the nature of the store! Mostly organic ….so the shoppers want the Grade B!

  26. How can there be a Grade A if there is no Grade B?

    Crud. I’m not in a position to stock up at this moment so hopefully the supply won’t dry up too quickly. I don’t mind paying more for better quality, though I did like paying less for better quality.

    I wonder if manufacturers will label the formerly Grade B as “late season”?

    • the Grade B will now either be labeled dark or very dark, all maple syrup will be Grade A so their is no price differentiation. This is what is stated in the article.

      • I get that. The point is there is no point in a “Grade” if there is only one allowed on the label. Also, the coloring of the syrup won’t mean much given that inferior syrup can be manipulated to be darker. I already see plenty of Grade A dark or very dark on the shelves and it certainly is not the same quality as Grade B. A “late season” or other indication on the label would allow consumers to make informed decisions, even if the move now means that it will cost me more than it does now.

  27. My initial thought is to talk to our preferred brands and encourage them to keep making their products the way they are. Color is not a standard as so much JUNK can be added to make color. We need some way to verify quality.


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