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Zak Hargrove, co-owner of South Ridge Maple, holds a bottle of maple syrup at one of his warehouses in Knowlesville, N.B.Chris Donovan/The Globe and Mail

On a recent weekday, a 40-foot shipping container filled with thousands of bottles of maple syrup arrived in Bremerhaven, a port city on the North Sea coast of Germany.

The importer, Kexo Group, will sell and distribute the syrup, produced and bottled by South Ridge Maple Co. Ltd. of Knowlesville, N.B., from a warehouse just outside Cologne – and plans to ship in another quarter of a million bottles over the course of a year to capitalize on a growing market.

Sales of maple syrup are “really going up,” said François Kranenpohl, the owner and general manager of Kexo. “In Germany, it’s a fashionable product. It’s a younger target group. It’s mostly female.”

Last year, Canada exported $61-million of maple syrup and maple sugar to Germany, a doubling since 2015 in nominal terms. While Germany lags well behind the United States, which imported $381-million of the sweet, sticky stuff in 2022, it is Canada’s No. 2 export market. Canada sends more maple syrup to Germany than any other food or agricultural product.

The export push coincides with a boom period for output. Canadian producers harvested 17.4 million gallons of maple syrup last year, 22 per cent more than the previous record high, in 2020, according to figures from Statistics Canada. Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, the private cartel that regulates production in that province, has allocated millions of new taps in recent years, contributing to the expansion in output.

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Mr. Hargrove prepares a shipment of maple syrup at one of his warehouses.Chris Donovan/The Globe and Mail

As production ramps up, industry players say the overseas market is ripe for further expansion.

“In Germany, most supermarkets have just one maple syrup,” Mr. Kranenpohl said. “This will change.”

At grocery stores, maple syrup is often found in the organic aisle and pitched as a sugar substitute for use in coffee, muesli and baked goods. The words “vegan” and “gluten-free” are seen on some labels, and it is essentially marketed to health-conscious shoppers.

KoRo Handels GmbH sells bulk food products under its name and mostly through e-commerce channels. The Berlin-based company has carried organic maple syrup from Quebec for several years, touting it as a “natural vegan substitute sweetener” on its website. By late August, KoRo had sold about 18,000 one-litre bottles of maple syrup – which retail for €23.50, about $34 – this year.

“That’s quite decent,” said Natalie Wendt, a KoRo spokesperson. “This is one of the staples we sell. People use it for cooking, baking and, of course, also for pancakes.”

Germany is also a key market for dark syrup, which is produced in smaller quantities and harvested later in the season. “They like the strong taste,” said Francis Lavoie, director of global sales for The Maple Treat Corp., a major distributor. “That’s something particular to Germany.”

Export sales have been steadily rising for years. In 2022, Canada shipped $616-million of maple syrup and maple sugar to other countries – an increase of 147 per cent over a decade. During that time, trade conditions have become more favourable. Canada’s free-trade agreement with the European Union, which started to take effect in 2017, led to the removal of the EU’s 8-per-cent tariffs on maple syrup and sugar.

“I think maple, worldwide, is on an upward trajectory. The agreement certainly did not hurt,” said Zak Hargrove, who co-owns South Ridge Maple with his wife, Karen.

When the couple started their business in 2015, they intended to focus on export sales. Mr. Hargrove comes from a long line of maple syrup producers; his parents own nearby Canadian Organic Maple Co. Ltd., which is geared toward the overseas market and also fills bulk orders for maple sugar, which are used in industrial recipes.

The trade relationship between South Ridge Maple and Kexo was forged in 2017 at Anuga, an influential food fair in Cologne, where Mr. Kranenpohl sampled the product. “I was really smashed about the quality. It’s so much better than the usual blended syrup,” he said.

The Hargroves subsequently developed the 47° North brand of maple syrup, a reference to the latitude of their operation in central New Brunswick.

Mr. Hargrove said he could easily double the size of his business, given his processing capacity. The trouble is having enough trees to tap. He’s hoping to lease nearby Crown land, which is overseen by the provincial government.

“The sky’s the limit, provided there’s maple trees to tap,” he said. “We’ll tap as many as we can and ship the product around the world.”

The Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve in Quebec keeps about $100-million of the syrup safe. See inside the facility and how it protects its stockpile of liquid gold, with security that has been likened to a bank.

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