Birch syrup joins maple syrup at the table
A man and his passion
Passionate about the maple industry, Martin Malenfant launched into maple syrup production in 1987; eleven years later, he founded Érablière Escuminac. Projects have since followed in rapid succession, as he concentrated on developing green practices. Through the sustained efforts of its staff, Érablière Escuminac soon became one of the five leading certified organic maple syrup producers in Quebec. Today, the company harvests sap from maple and birch trees (113,000 taps in all) and operates out of two sites, one in Gaspésie and a second, smaller concern in Bas-Saint-Laurent.
Another great Gaspésie story!
In order to diversify its activities, in 2009, Érablière Escuminac conducted trials with yellow birch: 3,300 taps later, the results were conclusive. In light of growing interest among consumers, it embarked on a new adventure. Using a highly complex process, the firm harvested birch sap to produce a tasty new syrup and thus broaden its product line. Like Érablière Escuminac’s maple syrup before it, this yellow birch syrup soon won organic certification from Ecocert Canada. It did not take long for the young company, then offering two products officially accredited according to organic reference standards, to carve out an enviable place for itself in this emerging industry.
“The maple syrup market was doing well and the organic production market was booming. Business was good, but to recoup my investment, I decided to venture further a-field. I was convinced something good could come from other species of trees on my land. My instincts served me well: together with my team, we created a product of incomparable flavour,” explained Mr. Malenfant.
In October 2009, the Ordre du mérite agricole du Québec (Order of agricultural merit of Quebec) recognized the know-how and dynamism of Érablière Escuminac: the firm placed first regionally and second nationally, both in the Bronze category.
A terroir treasure to discover
The qualities and potential of this nectar remain little known. As part of its domestic and international commercialization strategy, in collaboration with regional export support organization GIMXPORT, Érablière Escuminac presented its new birch syrup at the Montréal Salon international de l’alimentation (SIAL—an international public food trade show) held at the Palais des congrès from April 21 to 23, 2010. It was a hit: participants acknowledged having experienced ‘quite a taste thrill’.
Considered a high-end product, yellow birch syrup has a distinctive caramel flavour and is garnering growing interest, particularly from chefs, for its great versatility. It can be used in desserts as well as main courses and is featured in a number of beers, wines and spirits. Only launched in April 2010, birch syrup is already unable to supply the demand.
From dream to reality
“Business was good, but to recoup my investment, I decided to venture further a-field. I was convinced something good could come from other species of trees on my land. My instincts served me well: together with my team, we created a product of incomparable flavour,” explained Mr. Malenfant.
To achieve widespread commercialization of its new product, the SME received financial support from Canada Economic Development which, true to its mission, supports enterprises that, like Érablière Escuminac in Gaspésie, innovate and contribute to diversifying their region’s economy. This project will stimulate employment in this small community of 661 residents, thereby growing and diversifying its revenue streams.
The owner is on a roll. He doubled the number of birch taps in 2010 but will not stop there. His medium-term goal is to gradually expand to 20,000 taps.
Maple syrup now has a major competitor in birch syrup. Both blend the smooth sweetness and flavour of a unique local product.
Birch syrup costs more to produce because its sap is less sweet and requires a longer evaporation time. It takes 130 litres of sap to make one litre of birch syrup. Maple syrup, by comparison, averages 35:1.
For further information on Érablière Escuminac