After gaining experience at a low production level, you may want to expand your operation. Constraints that affect this decision are usually limitations on resources, such as time, funds, firewood, access to the sugarbush, sales opportunities, labor, and perhaps most importantly, flexibility of schedule. Nature can throw a monkey wrench in any outdoor winter plans, especially in Missouri's sapflow season where we can have subzero temps one night and 65 degrees two days later, neither of which are good for sap flow or storage, so management flexibility is necessary. Having a good match between your rates of sap production, gathering, boiling, and finishing will be necessary. You may need to acquire storage tanks to accommodate the differences in these rates.
Going commercial will greatly increase your volumes of sap and fuel needed, and require time- and labor-saving methods. If you have farm equipment available, access through snow or mud and hauling large quantities of sap is made much easier. Believe me- hauling big quantities of sap any distance by hand will exhaust you. If your grove density is high enough, you might collect sap using a tubing system. You may want or need to consider reverse osmosis technology to reduce fuel use. Do your research and build familiarity over the course of several years before making large equipment purchases. Selling Syrup will not make you rich; your hourly "salary" will be incredibly low for your first years until you gain efficiencies. Try to find helpers with flexible schedules whom you can pay in syrup (family members).
There are many resources on the internet regarding going commercial. I have selected a few documents that may be helpful.
Cornell University published a paper titled "Assessing the Commercial Potential of a Site for Maple Sap Collection".
Michael Farrell, an expert in syrupmaking from Vermont, gave a presentation at a virtual Agroforestry seminar of the University of Missouri in 2020, for those interested in starting a Missouri sugaring operation:
Note that his costs for spiles, buckets and other supplies might be high- there are ways to economize .
National Center for Appropriate Technology 's sustainable agriculture group prepared a helpful document for determining whether to make a commercial operation:
(then click on their download button)
I have contacted various farmers markets in Missouri. Only two had Missouri maple syrup to sell; all of them believe there is a demand for the product as consumers seek local and natural products, even though the sales price will be much higher than that of big-brand corn-syrup-based products. If you would like to sell at a farmers market, here is a link to the list of members of the Missouri Farmers Markets Association.
Having an attractive logo on your label always helps brand identification and loyalty. Google "maple syrup label images" for some ideas. You are welcome to use the images on the LOGOS link on this website, to supplement your own label and to emphasize Missouri as the source. With the many printing softwares available, you might be able to make them yourself. If not, here are a few label printers:
To help marketing efforts, why not donate some syrup to fundraising auctions of local charities, or enter your syrup in your county fair produce judging. Because there is so little public awareness of this Missouri activity, any promotional effort will help. FYI a few years back, a Missouri syrupmaker won a first place ribbon in a Wisconsin syrup judging contest!
There can be other business models for syrupmakers. If you have many trees but no boiling capacity, find someone who makes syrup, and swap your sap (and maybe some firewood) for syrup. If you boil, sell your boiling/finishing services to sap producers. This would be another benefit of an active network of Missouri syrupmakers; helping members find these opportunities.
If you don't have enough volume to justify setting up at a market, why not contact someone who already sells produce at the market to sell your syrup. On the downside, using a third party to sell will prevent you from hearing the many compliments and expressions of surprise from your customers, which is another form of payment for your hard work.
Similar to producers of other grown commodities, syrupmakers can obtain certification as "natural" or "organic", which may help marketing efforts.
Unlike Vermont or other large syrup-producing states, there is very little in Missouri statutes relating to the sale of maple syrup. Laws applying to food production in non-commercial facilities are called "Cottage Food" Laws. Here is a link to a website of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services addressing Cottage Food rules in Missouri, and I believe this could apply to syrup, but it is not specifically mentioned.
Providing some partial clarity, elsewhere on the DHSS website there is a discussion relating to the sale of maple syrup in retail stores.
Missouri passed SB525 in 2014 which exempts nonprofits from certain food safety regulations, again no mention of syrup. The use of the word "syrup" in some previously -existing regulations may refer to fruit syrup, which could lead to some confusion.
It is possible that counties, cities, or farmers markets may have other rules or regulations that apply to commercial food sales. Food inspectors in Missouri have little or no experience dealing with maple syrupmaking, and may not understand that a) our product is typically boiled to 220 degrees prior to bottling (well above the boiling point of water) which in theory kills all possible harmful organisms, and b) there are no additives. They may try to impose unreasonable requirements on producers. In such case, it might be helpful if an association of Missouri syrup producers could get involved to establish some clarity for producers. Currently there is no such association to advocate for syrupmakers.
To minimize concerns, one Missouri producer who sells his product suggests that producers sell only directly to the end user, (not to stores or restaurants). This producer also suggests that at a minimum, sellers should label their product with name of producer and address, and include a statement to the effect that "syrup was processed in a facility not subject to inspection by food safety agencies". It can also be helpful to record the date of bottling or batch number on each bottle.
The Missouri Maple Syrup Initiative assumes no liability for errors or omissions in the information presented herein; as with any food production business, there are potential liabilities; in the absence of specific regulations, follow generally accepted guidelines for syrupmaking.
If you look for real maple syrup in Missouri grocery stores, they typically offer syrups from Canada or eastern states. I have never seen Missouri syrup in a retailer. Lets fix that!
Because of the possible high price of your product relative to corn syrup, sell a variety of bottle or jar sizes, such as 8, 16, and 32 oz, with appropriate price points and discounts for the larger sizes. Observe how honey is marketed in your area to get an idea of what sizes might be popular. If you have large enough volume of syrup, you can investigate selling value-added products like maple sugar, maple cream, or candy.
Rather than including on this website a list of some prices I have seen various producers get for their product in Missouri, I suggest that you price it such that it is worth your time and effort, and find the outlet or market that will have a clientele willing to pay that price. Don't sell yourself short; Missouri maple syrup is truly a RARE COMMODITY!