Ever considered adding maple coffee to your sugarhouse product line? If not, read on.

For maple houses looking to capture sales with coffee drinkers, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) noted the United States is a world leader in consumption. Ranking in the globe’s top five countries, along with Japan, Italy, France and Germany, America imported 51.5 million bags of coffee in 2013, nearly 2 million more than in 2012. This is complemented with the SCAA’s retail valuation of the American coffee market of $48 billion as of December 2015.

Decision to sell maple coffee

The choice to add maple coffee to your product lineup requires serious consideration. One reason is to increase attractiveness to customers not interested in traditional maple syrup products.

“The ones who buy [from our association], the predominant reason they give me is because it adds to their product line and therefore makes them more interesting,” Helen Thomas, executive director for the New York State Maple Producers Association, said.

Lloyd L. Munsee of Big Tree Maple in Lakewood, New York, explained how his selling practices exemplify this concept. He noted how carrying maple coffee at his sugarhouse created more sales in the short and long terms.

“I find that many customers, especially the first time they see it, they say, ‘Oh, maple coffee, I (have) never heard of that. That’s interesting.’ And sometimes they will buy some just to try it,” Munsee said. “I do have some customers that are repeat customers that come back and buy it on a fairly regular basis.”

Offering maple coffee can also provide maple producers the opportunity to increase the amount of sales beyond traditional maple products. Munsee explained that for his customers, maple coffee, along with similar maple-infused products, serves as an upselling opportunity when customers come in to buy traditional maple products.

“They come in to buy the maple syrup, they come in to buy the candy or the cream, and they see these other value-added products,” Munsee said. “We offer barbecue sauce. We offer pancake mix. We offer this coffee, and they see those other products. They decide to try one or more, and sometimes they come back and buy it again in the future.”

Ways to source products

There are two different avenues for maple producers to source maple coffee for retail. The first option is to obtain coffee directly through an association. Thomas explained how membership in an association, such as the New York State Maple Producers Association (NYS Maple), can allow maple producers not to worry about the details of working with a roaster to formulate their own product.

“We have [the coffee] made and then members buy it from us for them to resell,” Thomas said. She noted that her association sources it on a wholesale basis because it’s for members statewide. All members have to do is purchase is from the association, price it for retail and add it to an existing lineup of other maple-themed products.

Another route is working directly with a roaster to formulate a custom maple coffee product. Manufacturing and packaging considerations must be accounted for when partnering with a roaster directly.

“Product can be ordered and manufactured the same day or the next day. I can print their labels for them if they want because I print labels in-house for a lot of people,” Sam Brest, owner of King David Coffee Roasters in Nashua, New Hampshire, said. “And if they want to send me their image or their logo, it can be a coffee with their farm name or whatever they want on it. And again, this happens all within a day or so.”

Profitability figures

While selling maple coffee may serve to increase awareness and engagement from consumers for other staple maple products, it’s not a loss leader. Thomas said that with her blend selling for approximately $10 at a local fundraiser, it provided her organization with a profit margin of approximately 72 percent.

Marketing maple coffee effectively

Selling maple coffee is an integral part of how other maple products are sold. This is especially true in relation to community events at sugarhouses and beyond. Paul Ruger, business manager of Malta, New York-based Sugar Oak Farms, explained how his maple operation takes a multipronged marketing approach.

“We’re open every Thursday. So you can come year-round, (and) buy any of our products, including the coffee,” Ruger said. “We sell it on our website. When we do go to craft fairs, which we do mostly around Christmastime, we will bring it with the rest of our products.”

Another benefit of working with a state association as a maple processor is sponsored events. In the case of the NYS Maple, Maple Weekend is how Ruger can make a lasting impression on visitors to the organization’s Maple Weekend.

Held the last two weekends of every March, residents visit participating New York sugarhouses to learn how maple syrup is produced from tree to bottle.

“At Maple Weekend, we give out 6-ounce cups, and you can have as much as you want. [Hopefully] they’ll like it and they’ll buy it, or if not, it’s a nice gesture. People say, ‘Wow, I went to this maple farm, and granted, they’re trying to sell me stuff, but they’re also giving out free coffee, and they’re doing nice tours.’ So, with your customer, it helps. It builds the personal relationship.”

Considerations When Labeling Maple Coffee

When it comes to packaging and how a coffee’s flavor is labeled, among many U. S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), there are requirements the agency has depending on a product’s ingredients.

For example, retailers may use phrases such as “maple-flavored,” “maple” or “artificially maple-flavored” on food product labels. These terms are allowed if a product contains maple flavoring, but no maple syrup. The FDA points out that maple flavoring can come from other sources including a maple tree’s bark or even fenugreek, an herb, that can replicate maple flavors.

However, the FDA has further guidance for products made with maple syrup. For consumers who want to know if maple syrup is part of the product, it will be specifically listed as part of the ingredients using the term “maple syrup.” When maple syrup is used in a product, the phrase “made with 100% maple syrup” may also be used on the product packaging.

Maple syrup has real potential to be part of your sugarhouse’s product line-up. Understanding how to source it, the potential for direct and indirect profitability and what the labeling requirements are when selling it is a good start to add this caffeinated treat.

Disclaimer: Please note that this article is for informational purposes and is not intended as professional business development or legal advice, especially when it comes to current FDA rulings regarding labeling requirements. Please consult with licensed legal experts to ensure current labeling requirements are followed.