SAINT-LAZARE, Que.—CDL is planning a 2023 launch of a new product it says will revolutionize the industry.
CDL has spent the past three sugaring seasons developing and testing a liquid sweetener called Nectar, which has the consistent flavor, color and stable storage qualities food companies are looking for.
Nectar is a high brix (60-70 percent) concentrate that includes all nutrients originally included in raw sap coming from the tree.
It is a natural sweetener with healthy benefits that could be used in many different foods and beverages, creating new opportunities for maple market development.
“CDL’s goal behind this project is to allow the overall maple industry to gain worldwide market shares into liquid sweeteners,” said Maryse Bernier, company marketing director.
“We want to bring this technology on the market in the near future so it can benefit all existing and future maple producers and buyers looking for innovative maple products. We will make it available to any companies that may be interested in the product and technology,” she said.
Nectar’s high-nutrient quality makes it an attractive natural product that can replace existing liquid sweeteners.
“We can preserve the nutrients by combining an ultra-filtration, high-brix concentration system and low temperature evaporation technologies in a patented process.
The process allows the operator to control the desired final brix and will allow preservation as good as maple syrup when packed in stainless steel drums. Nectar is 100 percent soluble when mixed in a liquid.”
But she said Nectar won’t compete with or pose a direct threat to maple syrup, which many food companies already use to sweeten things such as cereal and meats such as maple-flavored ham.
“We should not compare Nectar to maple syrup,” Bernier said.
“They are both great products and great sweeteners. Nectar will open new markets because of its different characteristics like color, nutrients, taste and brix, which will make it a great maple ingredient for specific application in food processing for companies that may be interested in maple as a healthier and better sweetener,” she said.
CDL began working on Nectar after North American and European food companies approached the firm, asking for a new type of maple sweetener.
Co-owner and General Manager Vallier Chabot explained that “raw sap is nearly sterile when extracted from the tree. However, it can later be contaminated in the taps, in the collection system or during storage. Currently, sap and concentrate have a very short shelf life, but refrigerated storage and transportation remain expensive and impractical on a commercial scale.
The sap composition makes it a good host for microorganisms, so we needed to develop a stabilization process that would allow the sap to be stored at room temperature for long periods while keeping it as close to raw as possible. And above all, we needed to do it without chemicals, since the sap is largely desirable because it’s natural.”
But developing Nectar was extremely challenging because the goal was to create a maple sweetener that didn’t exist, with no equipment specifically designed to make it.
“In a way, it was a nice blank canvas!” Chabot said. “This was a first for the CDL team. We had to work on both the process and the equipment to achieve the final product.”
About a dozen employees in the company’s engineering, research and development, production and marketing departments began work on the project in 2017, Bernier said.
“Equipment used to make Nectar is very similar to what’s used for regular maple syrup, except for the evaporator,” she said. “It is very simple to operate. There are two new technologies included in the process for producing Nectar, the ultra-filtration machine and low-temperature evaporator. There is no filtration on the end as we do in maple syrup.”
Nectar has the highest possible nutritional value because sap it isn’t altered, denatured or overheated. Although sap is heated, it’s never cooked or boiled above 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celcius).
Chabot explained the entire production process in detail.
“First, the sap is sent through an ultra-filtration unit, which stabilizes it by eliminating any yeast and microorganisms that could alter it as it is being concentrated,” he wrote.
Then it goes through a reverse osmosis process to increase the Brix and simplify the next step, which involves evaporating the water, without cooking the sap, to keep the natural sap’s original properties.
At this point, the sap has reached 60 to 70 degrees Brix, depending on the needs. It has become a stable product, maple nectar, that can be stored at room temperature.
The process can be fully automated, which means a quick return on investment with very low energy demand. It is also simple enough that any large- or mid-sized maple syrup producer can use it, Chabot said.
Because Nectar is so new, exact costs of production haven’t been determined yet. But the goal is to keep this as low as possible “so it will be profitable for producers and price attractive as a healthy liquid sweetener,” Bernier said.
Plans call for small-scale commercialization of equipment in time for the 2023 maple season. On the company website, Chabot said CDL will soon make some maple Nectar units available exclusively to customers. A technology showcase project is also under way for producers interested in the process to visit and learn more about Nectar.
“We believe Nectar could be marketed in different ways,” Bernier said. “Maple syrup is a great and unique product. We believe there’s also huge potential for an innovative product like maple Nectar as a complement and great ingredient in the maple products family. It’s sure to help grow the industry.”