How a tiny spout may change the maple industry

An innovative new maple spout developed by the University of Vermont's Proctor Maple Research Center with taxpayer funding secured by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) will have a dramatic impact on maple syrup production and boost job creation and economic development in the state, the senator announced at a press conference last week.

The new spout will increase sap yields by 50 to 90 percent per tree.

The announcement was made at Progressive Plastics in Williamstown, Mass., which began commercial production of the device, called a check valve spout, the day of the press conference. Progressive Plastics is manufacturing the spout for Leader Evaporating Company of Swanton, which licensed the technology from UVM and will market and sell it.

Two new UVM appropriations support maple research at UVM's Proctor Center: $188,000 to fund research by the Proctor to further increase sap yields and $188,000 to develop a non-toxic wood adhesive.

Although Leader has not yet listed the spout in its catalog or on its web site, the company has already received 1 million advance orders. Leader is projecting sales of three million units this maple season, making the spout its number one selling product. In the future, sales could be significantly higher.

According to Gary Gaudette, president of Leader Evaporator, the check valve spout could have a revolutionary impact on the maple industry.

"We're very excited about the new fitting," he said. "It's going to add as much to syrup and sap production as vacuum tubing did. I'm confident that this is going to be the thing to use in the future." There are between 50 and 55 million taps in use in North America, Gaudette said.

Both Leader and Progressive Plastics are in hiring mode despite the recession, leadership at both companies said, and both anticipate the new spout will add further to their need to bring on new staff.

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