Selling Maple Syrup in Wisconsin

​​​​Wisconsin ranks 4th in the nation behind Vermont, New York and Maine in production of maple syrup.  In 2014, Wisconsin producers yielded 200,000 gallons of maple syrup, contributing 6.2 percent of the country’s total maple syrup supply. The 2014 crop was valued at about $3.2 million. 

Currently, processors who produce pure maple syrup and concentrated sap and sell these products wholesale to other processors for further processing are exempt from food processing plant licensing as long as their gross receipts are less than $5,000 per year. Maple syrup processors must register their business at no cost with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.  

So you’ve just collected a batch of maple syrup and you’re wondering how you can earn a little extra money with it. These are some of the most common questions we get concerning maple syrup. Before you set up your facilities, be sure to contact your local town, village, or city and county governments to find out if there are local ordinances you need to meet to process and/or sell your maple syrup. Farmer’s markets may have their own rules, too.

Food Processing Plant License

Facilities that make maple syrup and sell it wholesale to another processor or entity must have a food processing license unless it is exempt. Gathering maple sap water is not considered food processing and does not require a license. 

Exemption

Your facility does not need a food processing plant license if the processor does all of the following:

  • Sells the maple syrup or concentrated maple sap only to other processors for further processing.
  • Sells less than $5,000 during the license year. This includes sales for the combined gross receipts from all maple syrup, non-shelf-stable concentrated maple sap, and shelf-stable concentrated maple sap. 
    • Note: This covers only wholesale product and the $5,000 does not include retail sales.
  • Keeps a written record of every sale and retains that record for at least two years.
    • The record must be available for inspection and copying by DATCP upon request. 
    • The record shall include the name and address of the purchasing processor, the date of sale, the amount of maple syrup or concentrated maple sap sold, and the sale price.  
  • Registers with DATCP before engaging in any processing activities in any license year ending March 31. A registration expires at the end of the license year. A processor shall register in writing using the maple sap processor registration form (F-fd-346).

Retail Food Establishment License

If you sell maple syrup to a consumer, you must have a retail food establishment license. You do not need a license if all of the following apply:

  • The establishment only sells fresh fruits and vegetables, honey, cider, sorghum, or maple syrup.
  • The operator of the establishment produces the product sold to the consumer. 

Food Warehouse License

A processor must have a food warehouse license if it holds liquid maple product or maple-derived water for more than 24 hours at a location other than the food processing plant.

If a facility has a food processing plant license, they must label their maple syrup product as one of the following: Grade A, processing grade, or substandard.  

     Note: If the product is being sold as bulk to be further processed it may be labeled as ungraded. 

If a facility does not hold a food processing plant license, they must label their product as one of the following: Grade A, processing grade, substandard, or ungraded. 

Grade A requirements: Maple syrup labeled as Grade A must meet the following characteristics: 

  • Is not more than 68.9 percent solids content by weight, or 68.9 degrees Brix. 
  • Has good uniform color. 
  • Has good flavor and odor, and intensity of flavor, or maple taste, normally associated with the color class for Grade A maple syrup. 
  • Is free from off flavors and odors considered as damage. 
  • Is free from cloudiness, turbidity, sediment, and is clean. 

Grade A must be accompanied by descriptive information: The color class of Grade A maple syrup is determined by the percent of transmittance of light at a wavelength of 560 nanometers through the syrup, as measured with a spectrophotometer using matched square optical cells having a 10 mm light path. The color value is expressed as percent of light transmission, as compared to analytical grade glycerol fixed at 100 percent. Percent transmittance is denoted by %Tc. Any method that provides equivalent results may be used to determine Grade A maple syrup color class. Grade A maple syrup color classes and corresponding flavor descriptors are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Maple Syrup Color Classes and Flavor Descriptions

Grade A Color Class
​Flavor Descriptor
​Percent Light Trasmittance
​Golden
​Delicate
​At least 75.0
​Amber
​Rich
​50.0-74.9
​Dark
​Robust
​25.0-49.9
​Very Dark
​Strong
​Less than 25.0


Processing grade: Maple syrup labeled as processing grade shall be packed in containers holding at least 5 gallons (18.925 liters) and shall not be packaged in containers smaller than 5 gallons (18.925 liters) for retail sale. Processing grade maple syrup has all of the following characteristics: 

  • Fails to meet the requirements for Grade A maple syrup. 
  • Possesses a fairly good characteristic maple taste. 
  • Is fairly clean and fairly free of damage, turbidity, or cloudiness. 
  • May be in any color class and have any percent light transmittance. 
  • Has not more than 68.9 percent solids content by weight, or not more than 68.9 degrees Brix. 
  • May contain off flavors and odors. 
  • May have a very strong taste. 

Substandard grade: Maple syrup labeled as substandard does not meet the requirements for processing grade.  

Ungraded: Any maple syrup that does not have a grade designation.​


Only water, salt, chemical preservatives, and defoaming agents may be added to maple syrup for the finished product to be labeled only as maple syrup. Once any other ingredient is added to maple syrup, it no longer meets the standard of identity for maple syrup and must be labeled as something else.  

When the product no longer meets the standard of identity due to addition of ingredients it must be evaluated for safety. What is added and how much is added will affect the controls necessary for food safety and regulations that apply. Operators can start by obtaining samples of their finished product from at least two separate batches and having them analyzed for water activity. If the water activity is above 0.85 additional controls will be needed, such as acidification or refrigeration to address the concern of Clostridium botulinum.

For example, addition of whole, dried cinnamon sticks or vanilla beans are not likely to increase the water activity of maple syrup. However, addition of a few slices of hot peppers or other vegetables could significantly increase the water activity of the finished product. In both examples, testing samples for water activity from at least two different batches will provide information to guide the development of appropriate food safety controls. If your operations are licensed as a retail food establishment, ​you might be required to keep infused or flavored maple syrup that you manufacture refrigerated and use it within seven days or obtain a product assessment to determine whether it is a time/temperature control for safety food. A person who is a process authority may be helpful to evaluate the safety of your finished product, and knowing the water activity is likely critical to their evaluation.

For more information see the following regulations:

A list of process authorities by state: