Market Testing for Alternative Tree Sap Products

Worksite Location
CCE Essex County is the host Association, but assessments include travel to Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties. The Uihlein Maple Research Station is located in Lake Placid NY.
Faculty Sponsor
Miguel Gomez
Other Campus-Based Mentors/Supervisors
Michael Farrell, Uihlein Maple Research Station; and Peter Smallidge
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Anita Deming CCE - Essex and Michelle Ledoux CCE - Lewis
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

Birch and walnut syrups are relatively new products in New York- very few people know about them and hardly anyone has tried them. The Cornell - Uihlein Research Station currently has active research projects examining the feasibility of maple syrup producers to also tap birch and walnut trees for sap and syrup production as a means of increasing the profitability of their sugaring operations. One of the key components of this research is exploring consumer reaction and the potential market demand for the alternative tree syrups, and what they might pay for these new products. There is also a potential market for these syrups in beer production and in gourmet chef creations.
Another 'new product' trend in New York is using maple and birch saps not as a raw material for producing syrup, but as a beverage or cooking ingredient all by itself. There are now at least 12 companies in the United States and Canada that are bottling maple sap as a new healthy beverage, at least 3 of which are sourcing their sap from NYS. Birch sap is consumed throughout the world as a healthy beverage, and one company is now exploring bottling birch sap in NYS.
Understanding the consumer, processor, and chef reaction to tree saps as a beverage and as a cooking ingredient will be helpful in determining the long-term potential of these products in NY. The price point for purchase will also help us evaluate the profitability of these enterprises.
Research papers that could develop from this project include:
- Consumer preferences and profitability analysis for birch and walnut syrup in New York State
- Consumer preferences and profitability analysis for birch and maple sap as a new beverage in New York State.

Roles and Responsibilities

The intern will develop a survey tool; pass the human research course; learn about sap and syrup production and product testing; develop an outreach document to explain the new products; set appointments with farmers' market managers, stores, processors, and chefs; and prepare an evaluation of the tasting and the potential profit for the new products. The intern will spend a significant portion of his or her time meeting the public and conducting market tests on birch and walnut syrups, and birch and maple saps at 6 fairs, 6 festivals, and 12 farmers' markets (out of 41) to conduct taste tests with consumers as a means of gauging the potential market demand and price points for these products.
The intern will also meet with 2 store owners, 12 chefs, and 2 brewers to determine the potential market demand and price points for wholesale marketing of the syrups and saps.
They will assist Miguel Gomez and Michael Farrell in the writing of a report on their findings. In addition they will determine the break-even price for the production of these products to determine potential for profit.

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

Must be a full time CALS freshman, sophomore or junior. Graduating seniors are not eligible. Must meet NYS Department of Motor Vehicle requirement, if applicable.

This student should have agricultural economics at an introductory level, agricultural marketing at an introductory level, and interest in the local food industry. Natural resource students will also find a wonderful learning opportunity. Someone that is interested in value added products or sustainable agriculture will add to their resume with this project. This student must be able to work with others as well as being a self-starter.

Benefits and Skills

This student will work with both the Natural Resources and Dyson School with this project as well as with 6 Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations. They will work with Farmers' Market managers, direct market outlets, processors and chefs throughout Northern NY. They will learn how to set up a research project, work with a variety of marketing channels as well as the public, and how to evaluate a research project. They will also learn how to promote a project and create educational documents.