If you’ve eaten out for breakfast in recent months, you may have noticed that the cost of pancakes and waffles keeps going up. According to USA Today, that’s because the price for pure maple syrup is at an all-time high right now! In the past year alone, the average price for a gallon of syrup has jumped from $35 to $45, and in some places – like The Vermont Maple Outlet in Jeffersonville, Vermont – a gallon of syrup sells for $80 or more. Why so high? For once, this sticker shock has nothing to do with the economy. Instead, it’s all about the age-old law of supply and demand.
First, syrup supply has dropped about 30% below average in recent years, mainly due to climate change. Experts say the weather conditions have to be just right to drain the tree sap that’s used to make maple syrup. Nowadays, harvesting season is much shorter – because the weather changes from “too cold” to “too hot” much faster. Meanwhile, demand for maple syrup is on the rise. Experts say sales have been fueled by trendy new “cleansing diets” – which include drinking water flavored with maple syrup. Sales are also driven by more people looking to “go green,” by buying only natural or organic food products. Add those factors together, and 2009 is shaping up to be a golden age for maple syrup makers.
Even with the recession, many sugarhouses are making big money this year. One manufacturer says he’s noticed more people cutting back on their syrup orders – buying more quarts instead of gallons. However, because the prices are so high, his company’s still turning a profit. Because of those prices, you may also notice more restaurants cutting back on maple syrup. Some have stopped putting free containers on their tables – only bringing it out when customers ask for it. Several IHOP locations recently stopped offering free syrup altogether. They now charge .99 cents for an ounce-and-a-half syrup packet. Why? Owners say that’s to keep people from pouring $10 worth of syrup on a $2 pancake order.