ISLAND POND — The new maple factory recently leased here by a Quebec company will open its doors for business here next month.
Known as the Island Pond Maple Factory, the new business plans to solicit bulk syrup from area sugar makers starting November 1.
“We know there’s a lot of syrup left,” said Jacques Letourneau, who helped negotiate the lease that was signed last week between his company, Bernard Maple, and the Brighton Selectmen.
He said the new factory is getting off to an early start because he wants sugar makers to be aware of its presence, and the best way to achieve that end is by buying syrup.
Located in Saint-Victor, Quebec, Bernard Maple is a fifth-generation family business that is known formally as Industries Bernard. According to an article in the Montreal Gazette last week, the company is a leading supplier to chain grocery [color=rgb(35,31,32);font-family:Calibri, 'sans-serif';font-size:11pt;]stores.[/color]
Speaking in an interview last week, Mr. Letourneau said the Island Pond factory hopes to take advantage of Vermont’s large crop last year, in which the state produced roughly 1.3 million gallons of syrup, up considerably from the 750,000 gallons it produced a year ago.
He called the move to Island Pond a good business move, saying that 60 percent of the company’s maple sales occur in the United States. “It’s where the big market is,” he said.
The company’s expansion south also appears to have been triggered by restrictions at home. The maple syrup industry there is tightly controlled by the Quebec Federation of Maple Syrup Producers, a cartel that fixes prices by setting an annual production quota.
“If not in Quebec, no quota,” said Tim Perkins, the director of the Proctor Research Center in Underhill, which is run by the University of Vermont.
He noted the only way a Quebec maple company can expand is to buy out another producer or move elsewhere.
Last year Bernard produced and bought over 1 millions gallons of syrup, according to Mr. Letourneau. He said one of the reasons why the company expanded into Vermont is because only 2 percent of the maples trees here are being tapped.
Market-wise, Vermont and maple syrup go together in most people’s eyes like apple pie and cheese. And while Mr. Letourneau refrained from raving about the quality of Vermont’s maple syrup, he noted that the company had chosen not to expand into other Canadian provinces like New Brunswick or Ontario.
“Our expansion plans are going to be reserved to what we’re doing here,” he said, adding that the company wanted to expand in the market where it is doing business. A market, he noted, that is driven by demand.
“I hope we fall under the good graces on Act 250,” said Mr. Letourneau. If all goes well, the annual lease payments of $15,000 would go toward the purchase of the factory, which is owned by the town.
The company plans to tap trees owned by area property owners and transport the sap to its Island Pond factory. Brighton Administrative Assistant Joel Cope said in an earlier interview that as many as ten tanker trucks a day could be traveling town roads during the height of the maple season.
The company’s long-term plans call for one million taps, but it could take awhile to determine if that goal is feasible. Mr. Letourneau said that, while the company expects to be in the area a long time, he first needs to reach out to surrounding sugar producers. And that’s why the Island Pond Maple Factory is opening its doors next month.
“We want the community to know something about us,” he said. “And the best way to get involved is to start up.”