Is Mrs Butterworths maple syrup?

Mrs. Butterworth’s is a well-known brand of pancake syrup sold in the United States and Canada. With its distinct bottle shape resembling a matronly woman and syrup as thick and rich as honey, Mrs. Butterworth’s has been a breakfast table staple for generations. But is it real maple syrup? Or is it just a maple-flavored syrup? Let’s take a closer look to find out.

What is Maple Syrup?

Maple syrup is a syrup made from the sap of maple trees, primarily the sugar maple. The sap, called maple water, contains about 2-3% sugar. This sugar content is mostly sucrose. In order to concentrate the sugar and turn the sap into syrup, it needs to be boiled. As water evaporates, the sugar content rises and the sap thickens into syrup. Under Canadian and U.S. regulations, a syrup can only be labeled as “maple syrup” if it meets certain standards:

  • It must be made from 100% pure maple sap
  • It must have a sugar content of at least 66%
  • It must be made exclusively by the evaporation of maple sap (no other ingredients added)
  • It must be produced during the maple syrup season when sap flows

These regulations help protect the purity of real maple syrup and preventproducts with additives from masquerading as maple syrup. Authentic maple syrup has a very distinct flavor profile, color, nutritional value, and texture.

Mrs. Butterworth’s Origins

Mrs. Butterworth’s pancake syrup was created in 1961 in Illinois by a food manufacturer named Pinnacle Foods. The character of “Mrs. Butterworth” was conceived as a “motherly, warm and knowledgeable” woman who would provide a “nurturing” syrup for families to enjoy. The original syrup containers were glass bottles shaped to resemble Mrs. Butterworth, a matronly woman with a bonnet and apron. The unique bottle shape helped the brand stand apart from generic syrups on shelves.

Mrs. Butterworth’s was intended as an affordable, mainstream syrup that provided the flavor of maple without the cost. Early marketing positioned it as “The World’s Sweetest Server” and “Sweet as the Love You Serve.” Commercials focused on the motherly Mrs. Butterworth character serving children delicious pancakes drowned in syrup. This nurturing persona positioned the brand as wholesome and family-friendly.

Mrs. Butterworth’s Ingredients

Unlike real maple syrup, Mrs. Butterworth’s contains added ingredients for flavor, texture, color, and consistency. The original ingredients in 1961 were:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Water
  • Cellulose gum – for thickness
  • Salt
  • Natural and artificial flavors – for maple taste
  • Caramel color – for maple color
  • Potassium sorbate & sodium hexametaphosphate – preservatives
  • Citric acid

High fructose corn syrup provided the bulk of the sweetness and texture. The other additives helped recreate maple flavor, color, and viscosity. However, none of the ingredients were from maple trees. In fact, maple syrup was noticeably absent from the ingredients list!

Over the years, the recipe has evolved:

  • 1983 – switched from glass to plastic bottles
  • 2002 – removed artificial flavors
  • 2015 – replaced high fructose corn syrup with corn syrup

However, it remains a formulated syrup, not one made solely from maple tree sap.

Maple Syrup vs Maple-Flavored Syrup

Given its ingredients, it’s clear Mrs. Butterworth’s does not meet the legal standards for real maple syrup. Instead, it falls under the category of “maple-flavored” syrup. This type of syrup contains added flavors, sugars, and colors designed to resemble and taste somewhat like maple, but without using any genuine maple sap.

Some differences between true maple syrup and maple-flavored syrups like Mrs. Butterworth’s:

Maple Syrup Maple-Flavored Syrup (Mrs. Butterworth’s)
Made from boiling down pure maple sap Made from corn syrup + artificial/natural flavors
66% minimum sugar content from sap Sugar content from added sugars, not sap
Grade A, Grade B indicating color and flavor No grades
Has vitamins and minerals from maple sap No vitamins or minerals from maple sap
Has a complex, nuanced flavor Simple, one-dimensional maple taste

Maple-flavored syrups mimic only the basic sweetness and maple taste, without the nutritional benefits or flavor complexity of real maple sap syrup. Their artificial colors and flavors also make them less natural products.

Why Not Just Use Maple Syrup?

If Mrs. Butterworth’s isn’t real maple syrup, why not just use real maple syrup instead? There are a few reasons driving the popularity of maple-flavored syrups:


Real maple syrup is significantly more expensive than formulated syrups. Maple sap yields a low volume of syrup relative to the sap collected. It takes 40 gallons of sap to produce just 1 gallon of maple syrup! This makes real maple syrup a labor-intensive, costly product. Maple-flavored syrups use inexpensive refined sugars and flavorings to imitate maple taste while undercutting maple syrup prices. Mrs. Butterworth’s debuted at half the price of maple syrup.

Shelf Stability

The natural ingredients and lack of preservatives in maple syrup mean it has a shorter shelf life than imitation syrups. Maple syrup can last over a year unopened, but needs refrigeration after opening. Formulated syrups often last years with their added preservatives. Their stability makes them more convenient for consumers.


Maple syrup varies in color, texture, and taste batch to batch due to differences in the trees, climate, and syrup maker. Formulated syrups like Mrs. Butterworth’s have a very uniform product year after year. Their consistent flavor and appearance appeals to consumers who expect the same experience every time.


Maple syrup comes primarily from northeast North America where sugar maples grow. Mrs. Butterworth’s and similar syrups are produced all over allowing greater accessibility to consumers across North America

Are Maple-Flavored Syrups Bad?

While maple-flavored syrups lack the nuanced taste and nutrition of real maple syrup, they aren’t necessarily bad. Mrs. Butterworth’s contains no artificial colors or flavors anymore and has reduced high fructose corn syrup. In moderation, it can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. However, consumers should recognize that the term “maple” is used loosely and not assume these syrups offer the full experience or benefits of genuine maple syrup.

When comparing brands, also look at their sugar content. Mrs. Butterworth’s has 52g sugar per 60ml serving. This is comparable to its leading competitor Log Cabin (50g sugar per 60ml). By contrast, real maple syrup has 54g sugar per 60ml serving since maple sap is naturally high in sucrose. So while not as nutritious, imitation maple syrups are similar in calories and sugar to the real thing.

The Controversy Around Mrs. Butterworth’s

While enjoyed for generations, Mrs. Butterworth’s has also come under fire in recent years for its branding. Critics have called out the syrup mascot for perpetuating racial stereotypes of motherly, subservient African-American “Mammy” figures. This has led some retailers like Kroger to stop carrying Mrs. Butterworth’s and associated brands.

In June 2020, Conagra Brands which owns Mrs. Butterworth’s announced a branding review in response to concerns about racial bias. The classic bottle shape was changed to be less humanoid. There is also uncertainty around the future of the “Mrs Butterworth” mascot. Changing attitudes and awareness of racial bias may well result in significant changes to the brand’s look and messaging.

Should You Buy Mrs. Butterworth’s?

Given the controversy around the brand and its lack of real maple syrup, some consumers may decide to avoid Mrs. Butterworth’s. However, it remains one of the most affordable and accessible maple-flavored syrup options on the market. Here are some factors to consider when deciding:

  • Price – Mrs. Butterworth’s offers maple flavor at a budget price
  • Ingredients – It contains no artificial flavors anymore but still uses corn syrup
  • Taste – Provides a basic maple-like flavor that kids enjoy
  • Convenience – Has a long shelf life and is widely available
  • Nutrition – Has vitamins and minerals added but no natural benefits of maple sap
  • Ethics – Some take issue with the branding and racial imagery

Ultimately it comes down to your priorities. If you want an affordable, accessible syrup without concerns over racial branding, Mrs. Butterworth’s is likely still an option. But if you want the true maple experience, unique flavor complexity, or avoid corn syrup, seek out real maple syrup instead. Read labels closely and buy based on your needs and values.


Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup has been a familiar presence on breakfast tables for over 60 years. But behind the motherly mascot and distinct bottle, it is ultimately a formulated syrup, not real maple syrup. It uses corn syrup and artificial flavors to approximate maple taste at a budget price point. This makes it quite different nutritionally and in flavor from pure maple syrup made from maple sap.

While authentic maple syrup remains the gold standard, Mrs. Butterworth’s fills a role for consumers wanting basic maple flavor affordably and reliably. Yet concerns around its branding and lack of real maple ingredients give some shoppers pause today. Carefully comparing brands and labels allows buyers to find the syrup that best aligns with their priorities whether cost, ethics, nutrition, or simply flavor.

When enjoying syrups like Mrs. Butterworth’s, it helps to see them for what they are – maple-flavored corn syrup, not real maple syrup. Appreciating both options for their different qualities and uses can satisfy the cravings and wallets of breakfast lovers everywhere.

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