Move Over Maple, Birch Syrup Gets A Plug

Rocky Lake Birchworks Ltd., a family business owned by Al and Johanna McLauchlan and their sons in The Pas has received $13,189 from the federal and provincial governments to assist with market development.

The McLauchlan family taps approximately 700 birch trees near their home north of The Pas. They harvested about 700 litres of birch syrup in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and are planning to tap approximately 1,000 birch trees next year, according to a Manitoba government release.

Once their labelled syrup is launched, the family plans to investigate opportunities with other birch sap products.

“Birch sap, as a drink is a traditional natural product well known to Aboriginal people, but birch syrup production is a new industry and marketing opportunity for us and our northern Manitoba community,” said Johanna.

“Our initial product testing and development indicated good potential for this syrup. With government funding and assistance from the Food Development Centre we are able to move forward with our marketing plan to sell our birch syrup throughout Manitoba.”

“Investing in innovative, made-in-Canada products helps producers grow their businesses, benefits their community and boosts the local economy,” said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, member of Parliament (Provencher) on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “This funding will help Rocky Lake Birchworks market their locally produced birch syrup beyond northern Manitoba to consumers throughout the province.”

“Birch syrup is a great example of an innovative, value-added, natural forest food product,” said Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Minister Struthers. “This funding partnership provides the opportunity for Rocky Lake Birchworks to investigate the potential of increasing production, complete market testing of its syrup and expand marketing opportunities that will create a new economic opportunity in a Manitoba community.”

Birch syrup is collected with a process identical to maple syrup extraction. Currently, most of Rocky Lake Birchworks’ product is processed and packaged in bulk locally and sold to Italy.

With matched government funding, the company is working with the Food Development Centre in Portage la Prairie to conduct market research, develop nutritional labelling and design new packaging for their product. The McLauchlans’ goal is to process, package and market the syrup in their home community and throughout Manitoba. The budget for this product development is approximately $26,000.

Birch syrup production is a new industry in North America, with Alaska being the largest producer (about 3,800 litres annually).

The Agri-Innovation Suite is part of Growing Forward, a federal- provincial-territorial initiative that is investing $1.3 billion in the agriculture and agri-food industry in Canada.

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