Why is Canadian maple syrup in cans?

There are a few key reasons why Canadian maple syrup is commonly sold in cans rather than glass bottles or other containers:

Maple Syrup Production in Canada

Canada is by far the largest producer of maple syrup in the world, accounting for about 71% of the global supply. In 2021, Canada produced about 13.2 million gallons of maple syrup, predominantly in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Given how significant maple syrup production is to the Canadian economy, especially in Quebec, standards and regulations have been implemented to protect authentic maple syrup production and marketing in Canada.

Advantages of Canning for Maple Syrup

There are several major advantages to selling maple syrup in metal cans rather than glass bottles or other containers:

  • Canning extends the shelf life – Properly canned maple syrup can have a shelf life of 2-3 years unopened. The canning process involves heating the maple syrup to a high temperature which kills bacteria and microorganisms that could cause spoilage.
  • Cans protect against light exposure – Light can damage maple syrup over time, causing oxidation and loss of flavor. Metal cans prevent light exposure better than glass bottles.
  • Cans prevent leaking and breaking – Metal cans are far more durable for transporting syrup compared to glass, and leaking or sticky syrup is avoided.
  • Metal cans have lower cost – Metal cans are simply cheaper packaging compared to glass, lowering overall packaging costs.
  • Cans allow for larger volumes – Given their durability and lower cost, metal cans allow for economical packaging of larger volumes of maple syrup from 500ml up to gallons.
  • Stackable shape – Cylindrical metal cans are easy to stack for storage and transport.

Therefore, the advantages of using tin or aluminum cans makes them an ideal choice for Canadian maple syrup producers and packagers.

History of Maple Syrup Canning in Canada

Canning only became a viable option for maple syrup in the early 20th century. Before this time, maple syrup was sold in wooden buckets or glass bottles.

Early Maple Syrup Containers

In the early days of the maple syrup industry in Canada, which emerged in the late 1700s and early 1800s, syrup was transported and sold in wooden buckets. These were simple enough to produce locally. However, they were prone to leaking and limited in size.

Glass bottles started to become more popular for maple syrup in the late 1800s. Glass provided a reusable, clean container that was moisture-proof. It allowed buyers to see the product clearly. However, glass remained expensive and fragile. The maximum size of bottles was also limited.

Emergence of Tin Canning

Tin canning emerged as a viable food packaging technology in the early 20th century. The first commercial tin cans were produced in Canada in 1900. Tin cans were soon adopted by many food producers because they were leak-proof, durable, and allowed for larger volumes of product to be packaged efficiently.

Maple syrup producers saw the advantages of switching from glass bottles to tin cans, especially for retail and export markets where glass was impractical. The first maple syrup in tin cans likely emerged in the 1920s.

Advances in Metal Canning

Further advances were made in canning technology, allowing maple syrup to be canned on a wide commercial scale by the 1940s and 50s. These included:

  • Sanitary can designs with removable lids
  • Higher capacity production lines
  • Improved can sealing processes
  • Enhancements in can lining to protect contents

Aluminum also started to become a more popular canned packaging option by the 1970s and 80s. Today, about 75-80% of Canadian maple syrup is sold in tin or aluminum cans.

Grades of Maple Syrup and Canning Implications

When maple syrup is packaged in cans, the grade of syrup factors into the ideal can size and format:

Maple Syrup Grades

Canadian maple syrup is classified into grades based on color, flavor, and density:

Grade Flavor Color Density (g/mL)
Canada No. 1 Extra Light Delicate taste Extra light transmittance >1.4196
Canada No. 1 Light Delicate taste Light transmittance 1.3791-1.4196
Canada No. 1 Medium Well-balanced flavor Medium transmittance 1.3386-1.3790
Canada No. 2 Amber Pronounced maple flavor Amber color 1.3385 or less
Canada No. 3 Dark Robust maple flavor Dark color 1.3289 or less

Canning Format by Grade

The lighter maple syrup grades are commonly canned in clear narrow-necked glass bottles or clear/translucent plastic bottles. This allows the lighter syrup color to be displayed.

The darker maple syrup grades are more commonly canned in metal containers, which help protect the product quality:

  • Amber maple syrup is often canned in standard sized tin cans such as 500ml or 1 liter.
  • Dark maple syrup may be canned in larger metal cans up to 4 liters since the rich flavor profile suits baking applications.

However, all grades of maple syrup can be sold in metal cans. The can format highlights that it is a high-quality, pure maple syrup product. Specialty can formats like the iconic maple leaf shaped cans may be used for gifting.

Maple Syrup Can Sizes and Shapes

Canadian maple syrup is commonly sold in a variety of can sizes and shapes:

Small Cans

  • 250ml / 8.5oz – Suitable size for individual use or gift giving
  • 375ml / 12.7oz – Provides multiple servings
  • 500ml / 16.9oz – Good standard single serving size

Large Cans

  • 1 Liter / 33.8oz – A common large size for everyday use
  • 1.5 Liters / 50.7oz – For larger households or commercial use
  • 2 Liters / 67.7oz – For restaurants and bulk buyers
  • 4 Liters / 135.3oz – For very large volume buyers

Specialty Cans and Shapes

  • Maple leaf shaped cans – Novelty gift item
  • Metal buckets – Replicate traditional wooden buckets
  • Metal tins – Vintage looking containers
  • Mini trophy cans – Special gift format

These different can sizes and shapes allow producers to target different market segments and needs.

Steps in Canning Maple Syrup

Canning maple syrup is a detailed multi-step process performed at certified facilities to ensure safety, quality and long shelf life of the product:

Maple Syrup Preparation

Pure maple syrup is harvested and prepared using processes like filtering, grading, and decontamination.


Cans are thoroughly washed and dried before filling. Filler machines dispense syrup into cans at high speeds, with overflow captured for reuse.


Lids are affixed to the cans and hermetically sealed. Automated sealing ensures no microbes can enter.

Thermal Processing

The filled cans are heated to sterilizing temperatures for a set duration to kill any potential bacterial contaminants.


The cans are cooled back down under controlled conditions.


Labels are applied indicating details like weight, grade, brand, ingredients and shelf life.


Canned syrup is held for a short period to observe for any issues before distribution.


Cans may be packaged into multi-can trays, boxes or shrink wrapped before shipping to retailers or distributors.


Finished products are randomly tested to ensure seal integrity, quality, and food safety.

Ensuring Maple Syrup Quality and Safety

Multiple measures are taken throughout the maple syrup harvesting, grading, canning and testing processes to guarantee a high quality safe product:

Hygiene Standards

Food safety procedures are closely followed, including facility disinfection, personnel hygiene, sanitary equipment designs, and water quality control.

Input Inspections

Incoming maple syrup density and quality is tested to meet grade standards.

Metal Can Safety

Cans undergo both automated and manual visual inspection for flaws. Epoxy linings protect syrup.

Sealing Validation

Regular seal integrity checks are performed to identify any inadequate seals on filled cans.

Sterilization Verification

Thermal processing equipment is calibrated and monitored. Internal can temperatures are verified.

Lab Testing

Accredited labs analyze random samples for contaminants, density, color, flavor, and shelf life.

Lot Codes

Lot codes on each can enable tracing back to production details and rapid recall if needed.

Maple Syrup Can Recycling in Canada

Once Canadians have enjoyed the maple syrup, the cans are highly recyclable and have a high recovery rate:

Can Recycling Rates

It is estimated that across Canada:

  • 95% of aluminum beer and soft drink cans are recycled
  • About 70% of steel food cans are recycled

While specific numbers are not available, maple syrup cans likely fall close to general food can recovery rates.

Recycling Programs

Most municipalities in Canada have recycling programs that accept food and beverage cans, either curbside or through recycling depots. This allows most maple syrup cans to be captured and recycled.

Recycling Benefits

Recycling cans:

  • Conserves energy and resources needed to produce new cans
  • Reduces landfill waste
  • Lowers greenhouse gas emissions
  • Helps support recycling economies and jobs

By purchasing canned maple syrup and responsibly recycling the empty cans, Canadians can enjoy maple products in sustainable packaging.

Future Outlook for Maple Syrup Canning

Maple syrup canning has proven to be a versatile, economic and sustainable packaging method that has stood the test of time. However some changes and innovations may occur in the future:

New Can Materials

As packaging tech evolves, new advanced metal alloys or coating liners may emerge that further extend shelf life or improve food safety.

Alternative Packaging

Pouch or stand-up pouch packaging may grow in popularity due to consumer convenience. However, canning still provides superior protection.

Smart Cans

QR codes or RFID tags may allow cans to better track temperature control and freshness. Smart labels could indicate spoiled or opened cans.

Improved Recyclability

There is always room for improvement in ensuring all cans get recycled and provide feedstock for new cans and other metal products.

But ultimately, metal cans should continue to be the standard packaging option for Canadian maple syrup producers and consumers for decades to come.


Metal canning provides major advantages for Canadian maple syrup producers allowing for an economical, safe and durable packaging format. Tin and aluminum cans help preserve maple syrup quality and freshness through heat processing, light and oxygen barrier properties, and tamper-proof sealing. Cans have enabled the growth of the maple syrup industry in Canada by allowing syrup to be affordably packaged, shipped and sold worldwide. While glass bottles remain popular for some specialty and gift products, the majority of Canadian maple syrup will continue to be sold in canned form for the foreseeable future.

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