Sterilization and pasteurization have no effects on the chemical composition and antioxidant activity of maple sap, says a new study that supports it as a ‘great candidate for functional beverage applications’.
Interest has been building in the beverage, described as ‘refreshing palatable’. As reported previously by FoodNavigator-USA , maple water can be considered a mid-calorie beverage, with 45 calories per 500 ml serving. Its taste is a faint echo of the flavor familiar to pancake breakfast aficionados.
Paul Rouillard, deputy director of the Federation of Maple Syrup Producers of Quebec, told us: “It’s about a 2% concentration of maple sugar. Maple syrup is about 66%, so you can see the difference.”
Production is starting small, with 400,000 liters having been produced, said Rouillard, but the reaction of the two companies packaging the product suggests the response has been strong.
As far as the marketing message and product claims are concerned, that is still being refined along with the health benefits of the product, although polyphenolic content (2 mg per 250 ml) is being called out on the labels.
“In Quebec we have about 42 million taps of maple trees right now, and we could go up to 100 million,” Rouillard said. “Right now we have about 7,300 producers in the federation.”
The bottleneck, at this early stage of development, lies in the transport of the sap to the packaging plants, which is being done with the type of tanker trucks that also transport milk.
“Maple water is more fragile than milk,” he said.
And the new study, led by Dr Navindra Seeram, indicates that pasteurization and sterilization do not affect the chemical constituents and antioxidant activity in maple sap.
“The natural watery form of maple sap makes its application as a functional beverage appealing but due to microbial growth, sterilization or pasteurization would be necessary before sap could be consumed,” they explained.
Writing in the Journal of Functional Foods , the scientists reported that the chemical constituents (sugars, amino acids, organic acids, minerals, and phenolics) and antioxidant activities of maple sap were preserved after pasteurization and sterilization. This result makes these liquids “attractive as functional beverages from a consumer perspective”, they said.
Additional analysis showed that the sap contained over 25 phenolic constituents, of which 15 were identified. The researchers also reported the presence of one compound not previously reported from maple syrup: 3′,5′-dimethoxy-4′-hydroxy-(2-hydroxy)acetophenone.
The sap also contained vitamins, minerals, organic and amino acids.
“Therefore, the preservation of chemical constituents and antioxidant activity in maple sap after pasteurization and sterilization warrants its application as a functional beverage beyond its primary use for maple syrup production alone.”
'A great regional product'
Dr Seeram told us that he has been researching maple for about five years, and has already published 13 or 14 papers on maple syrup and maple plant parts. The potential of the maple sap/water beverage is 'exciting', he said. "I've tasted it and it's fantastic. It has a slightly sweet taste, and this beverage could be positioned with the Vitamin Water and coconut water-type products.
"Maple is niche to Eastern North America. What is more culturally linked to the region than maple? This development will support regional products and help drive regional job creation."
The study was funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The samples were provided by the Federation of Maple Syrup Producers (FPAQ) of Quebec.
Source: Journal of Functional Foods
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.jff.2013.06.009
“Pasteurized and sterilized maple sap as functional beverages: Chemical composition and antioxidant activities”
Authors: T.Yuan, L. Li, Y. Zhang, N.P. Seeram