Cracker Barrel Maple Syrup Struck By Shrink Ray And Sugar Ray

maple_shrink_ray

Reader Kimaroo noticed that something was amiss with the with the single-serve bottle of maple syrup she receives with her French toast at Cracker Barrel. Not only did it seem smaller, she could have sworn that the bottle used to contain 100% maple syrup instead of “100% Pure Natural Syrup.” Fortunately, she had another bottle from a different Cracker Barrel visit stashed at home, and was able to compare the ingredients. Indeed, her maple syrup had been hit by the Grocery Sugar Ray: nearly half of its mapley goodness has been replaced with cane syrup.

I just wanted to alert you to another case of the Grocery Shrink Ray, but this time… at Cracker Barrel. When I eat French Toast at Cracker Barrel, I don’t use the syrup because it comes with powdered sugar and that is sweet enough for me. So I make a habit of bringing the syrup bottle home with me because we use it later on other foods.

So tonight I went to Cracker Barrel and noticed that the syrup now says “100% Pure Natural Syrup” and while I was sitting there I could have sworn that it used to be 100% Maple Syrup, because, frankly, I wouldn’t bother saving tiny bottles of non-maple syrup.

I used part of the syrup at the table tonight, but I cleaned it up and brought it home to make sure that I wasn’t just seeing things or remembering wrong.

I brought out my little bottle from the pantry and we compared to the new bottle from tonight. The differences aren’t just the level of maple syrup! Shockingly the size has also shrank!

The differences are:

Old: 100% Pure Maple Syrup 1.7oz
New: 100% Pure Natural Syrup 55% Pure Maple Syrup / 45% Cane Syrup 1.5oz

I remember from a about 6 months ago, we happened to catch a peek in the kitchen. A large sign was posted that said “REMEMBER: EACH SYRUP COSTS $1.50, GIVE ONLY ONE” or something similar to that. I guess they couldn’t keep the syrup machine going without having to scale back in both quality and quantity.

Also, note that the word “Vermont” has been removed from the front label.

Having to scale back their syrup generosity is understandable, especially with rising syrup prices. At least they didn’t switch to maple-flavored sugar syrup years ago.

Comments

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  1. Mr_Human says:

    I’m more offended by the tricky label (“100% Pure Natural Syrup”? Please.) than the change. Although if you’re not using pure maple syrup with your pancakes or waffles, you shouldn’t bother with them. I didn’t learn that until I was 30.

    • Sheogorath says:

      @Mr_Human:
      At least it’s cane sugar and not HFCS.

      Delicious corn syrup. And it’s %100 natural! It comes from corn, right?

    • katstermonster says:

      @Mr_Human: I was talking to a friend one time about how I hate eating breakfast in diners because I don’t eat eggs and they often don’t have real maple syrup. She said, “What do you mean, real maple syrup? They give you syrup!”

      She didn’t even realize that the Mrs. Butterworth’s she’d been using all those years wasn’t from maple trees. *Facepalm*

    • Charmander says:

      @Mr_Human: I so agree. We never use anything but pure maple syrup, which we try to buy at places like Costco and Trader Joe’s, because it is very expensive.

      It’s funny, but I’ve never bought any other kind of syrup, because my mom always used 100% maple syrup, so when I actually did taste Aunt Jemima’s syrup – I was disgusted.

      Buying real maple syrup is definitely worth it.

  2. Shadowfire says:

    It’s still from Maple Grove Farms. I wonder what those fine folks think of this change? I know being a Vermonter, I’m not terribly impressed.

    But then again, real maple syrup? –yum–

  3. mrsam says:

    It looks to me like a good chunk of that buck-fifty is the cost of the plastic bottle. There’s got to be a more cost-effective way of packaging single servings of maple syrup.

    At one diner I occasionally frequented, the waitress always brings out a bucket full maple syrup in sealed plastic containers. You peel off the top, and pour out the syrupy goodness. I used at most two containers, it was more than enough for my order, and by eyeballing the picture, it looks like even the shrunk bottle holds at least six-eight cups’ worth of syrup.

  4. Tim says:

    It’s also tricky that it’s still from “Maple Grove Farms.”

    But pure maple syrup isn’t cheap. I usually buy local stuff when I visit my parents’ place in Pensylvania, and it’s like $15 for a quart.

    • Megalomania says:

      @TCama: there’s something to be said about being a massive restaurant chain when it comes to getting discounts on stuff… however, I’m sure that enough people won’t notice/won’t care to offset those who refuse to accept lessened quality.

  5. bornonbord says:

    As a restaurant, Cracker Barrel should be aware that when you mess with a recipe that people have come to know and love, their clientele will get upset.

    Although I’m not a regular patron, french toast in general is delicious when slathered in salted butter and 100% pure Vermont maple syrup.

    On the other hand, that’s some expensive-ass syrup for a us-wide chain to use.

    But, if you want to set yourself apart from the others…. quality products is one way to.

    What’s the cost of French Toast at a Cracker Barrel?

  6. tkates says:

    I don’t mind paying extra for maple syrup, but it had better be real maple syrup.

  7. ZeusThaber says:

    at least they aren’t switching to those cheap oak or poplar syrups.

    Blech.

  8. frodolives35 says:

    My family will kill me if they knew (Vermont roots) but I prefer cane syrup over the maple syrup I was force feed all my life. Of cource we all know the stuff that is sold is not the best stuff and my uncle and cousins make some great syrup.

  9. Sir Winston Thriller says:

    Damned flatlanders.

  10. RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

    Meh, I’ve never been a fan of maple syrup, really. I suppose I only put it on waffles at home out of habit, and even then, it’s the Roddenberry’s Butter Maple Syrup Product. I’ve also never really been a fan of Cracker Barrel’s pancakes or french toast. Their Old Timer’s or Smokehouse breakfast is pretty awesome though.

    I suppose I will get pilloried for saying that I much prefer IHOP’s strawberry syrup to any variety of maple, even the 100% pure kind.

  11. Mackinstyle says:

    CANADA IS ANGRY

    • ChuckECheese says:

      @Mackinstyle: @Mackinstyle: Why should Canada be angry? It’s almost assured that the new, redacted “Maple Grove Farms” is some erabliere de Quebec where the supplies are greater than Vermont and the prices cheaper.

  12. inadequatewife says:

    I grew up thinking “maple syrup” was Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworths. Never had real maple syrup until I was an adult and my husband introduced me to the real thing.

    Every spring we head to the maple farm 20 minutes away and buy a 4-liter tin for $55.00 – very pricey but worth every penny and we support a local farmer. We keep the big tin in the freezer which turns the syrup into a thick sludge, but keeps it from getting moldy. We transfer smaller quantities to a syrup dispenser which we keep in the fridge.

    This article definitely affects my impression of Cracker Barrel. Even though they’re a big chain, I figured they were a little more “home cooked” than the typical place that just microwaves precooked food.

    I agree with everyone else that they should use dispensers on the table, with real maple syrup. Less expensive packaging with the real product seems like a winning combination.

  13. The Cheat says:
  14. Kishi says:

    Well, let’s be honest, Sugar Ray hasn’t really done much in years, and their latest CD isn’t getting the press they wanted, so they’ve got to find something to do.

  15. Laura Northrup says:

    @katstermonster: The very idea that people don’t know the difference between maple syrup and table syrup makes me very, very sad.

    I grew up on Mrs. Butterworth’s (maple flavored sugar water) but we switched to only actual maple syrup when I was probably middle school aged. I never looked back.

    Now, when I can’t afford maple syrup, I just don’t bother. I use it on pancakes, waffles, and to sweeten plain yogurt. Nom.

  16. Tim says:

    I make my own maple syrup at home.

    Well, I did in college. We did it with the buckets and a sugar shack and all.

  17. Snarkysnake says:

    This story just nicely sums up what has happened to American consumers over the last couple of decades: Quality products have been adulterated ,cut ,watered down and ruined by companies that just want to make a quick buck. They play Jedi mind games with label nomenclature that is technically correct but still not totally honest (or downright disingenuous) to convince us to pay top dollar for shoddy goods.

    Craker Barrel could use top quality maple syrup if they wanted to. But some accountant or other bean counter convinced management that we consumers are too stupid to know the difference and they can put the ($) difference in their pockets . (It probably won’t go to the rightful owners – managements nowadays gobble up any gains in profitability so fast that there is seldom much left over for the shareholders)

    I personally would love to see where the orange juice that they serve comes from. (I’ll bet its from Costa Rica or Brazil). The best orange juice in the world is grown here ,but mangements of these chains feel that you don’t deserve it. They will pay to import juice from anywhere on the planet to save a few cents rather than serve the very best.

  18. fencepost says:

    That article is from March, how are syrup prices now? According to [www.nass.usda.gov] the US 2009 harvest was the largest since 1944, up 22% since 2008.

  19. lostsynapse says:

    Sadly there is a good chance that at some point most of our maples will be wiped out like the elm and American chestnut. The current candidate is the Asian Longhorned Beetle which comes over in Chinese shipping pallets. [www.uvm.edu] When this happens, real maple syrup will become a rich man’s delicacy.

  20. jacques says:

    These guys are damn lucky they don’t have a restaurant in VT. IHOP opened in Burlington earlier this year, it’s the only one of the chain to serve real syrup (at a $.99 upcharge, of course), since they knew that cane syrup crap wouldn’t fly.

  21. I'm a tweeple too! says:

    Maybe part of the problem is people “stashing” one at home?

    Rising costs from “stashing” are included in the shrink ray.

  22. aplusboy says:

    I never eat at Cracker Barrel. They have a long history of discrimination against gay employees. It’s just a bad corporate culture. It took ten years of boycotts and protests from various gay groups to get CB to change their discrimination policy against gay employees. Ten years. So, frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn about what’s in their syrup.

  23. NikonGal says:

    I think it’s important to post Cracker Barell’s reason for doing the switch:

    Read it here:
    [www.walletpop.com]

  24. savdavid says:

    Instead of raising their price, they lower their quality.

  25. coffeeswirl says:

    I never liked Cracker Barrel. They don’t offer any kind of low-fat salad dressing and all of their vegetables come with meat. Oh you wanted sting beans? Here they are, covered in bacon.

    I like occasionally eating fatty foods just as much as anyone else, but when I think “home-cooked meal” I don’t think “added lard to every recipe”.

  26. kcvaliant says:

    Let me get this correct, people are complaining over free syrup??

    • baquwards says:

      @kcvaliant: Trust me you pay for that syrup. To pay $6-8 for french toast or pancakes, which are insanely cheap to make, I don’t consider the syrup “free” by any means.

  27. CFinWV says:

    @katstermonster: I can taste the difference primarily because I think real maple syrup is nasty. Personal preference really.

  28. tankertodd says:

    I don’t fault Cracker Barrel for replacing pure maple syrup with something less pure. Syrup is very expensive these days and cutting it with something else probably tastes almost as good. I do fault these companies when they don’t come clean with their shrink ray and watering down.

    They’re saving money. They should come clean and tell us what they’ve done. Most consumers will probably be fine with it – they’d rather pay the same for their pancakes and have the quality decrease by some amount than pay more.

  29. matt1978 says:

    Folks, before everyone here gets all crazy on how the packaging is wasteful, with it being single serve and whatnot, please remember this: At any restaurant that serves a syrup dispenser with anything, there has been a patron who has licked the top of the bottle. Shoney’s, Waffle House, IHOP, etc, somebody has licked a drop of syrup off of the plastic. Please don’t fool yourself into thinking it was cleaned between that person and you, either.

  30. Ronin-Democrat says:

    Ahhhhhhhhhh,

    Even the “real America” can be scammy schmucks!

    I wonder how much they paid their legal department to come up with that label..

    I think they would have been better off leaving the label off and just buying some dirty dishwater “pancake” syrup and selling that.

  31. RvLeshrac says:

    @inadequatewife:

    Too bad you have to be in a place that gets *plenty* of snow to take advantage of it!

  32. katstermonster says:

    @I’m a tweeple too!: She paid for it…so you’re saying that people should pay for stuff they don’t use to prevent prices from rising? The implications of that idea are staggeringly bad.

  33. Laura Northrup says:

    @I’m a tweeple too!: This would make sense if they re-used the bottle if you left it behind. They don’t.

  34. Red_Eye says:

    Well there is one more place not to frequent

  35. PLATTWORX says:

    “REMEMBER: EACH SYRUP COSTS $1.50, GIVE ONLY ONE”

    Huh? Yes, pure maple syrup can be pricey but how on Earth is Cracker Barel paying $1.50 for each 1.7 ounces of it (old bottle)?? I can get a bottle of pure maple syrup at my local grocery store for about $6 (store brand). I was just looking at it last week.

    That store bottle would probably fill 10 of these little Cracker Barrel bottles. How are they paying $1.50 for each small bottle.

  36. happymom2007 says:

    I live next to Geauga County, OH who makes a lot of maple syrup. I can’t handle the fake stuff and refuse to have it in my home. CB has some good meals, but what they did to the maple syrup is horrendous!

  37. dazex says:

    I am willing to bet that the $1.50 that the syrup costs is the cost of the little bottles in the “Country Store” and not the actual cost of one. They probably say give only one to stop hoarding and increase store sales.

  38. HeavyMental says:

    that is sad !

  39. PBallRaven says:

    Sugar Ray Leonard smacked around a bottle of syrup? What those old boxers won’t do to make a comeback…

  40. Winteridge2 says:

    Like cold french fries and “tacos”, most folks today don’t know what real maple syrup tastes like.

  41. ReaperRob says:

    I’ve had real maple, I didn’t care for it. I’ll stick with cane syrup and honey. Especially Tupelo honey.

  42. MostlyHarmless says:

    @katstermonster: That point #3 has SO much potential.

    But OTOH, are you trying to tell me that my male syrup isnt really male syrup unless it doesnt form crusts?

    Also,

    Off The Grid: Your doin it rong.

  43. subtlefrog says:

    @h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes: In totally unrelated news – please follow me again on Twitter. It was unintentional – I had no coffee!!!!

    But yes – I’m not from Vermont, but yikes – you don’t dilute the real thing with…with…that crap.

  44. EarlNowak says:

    @katstermonster: A lot of us live in the south and were never exposed to things like “Maple” or “Snow”.

    Until I had a roommate from upstate new york in grad school, I didn’t know the difference between Maple and Table syrups. Then again, I had to teach her the difference between Wild Shrimp and imported farmed shrimp, so I think it was an even exchange.

  45. kaceetheconsumer says:

    @katstermonster: I have known far too many people – mostly living in the southern half of the US where they never see snow or maples – who don’t know the difference, and when presented with the real thing, prefer the fake stuff. Their tastes have been cultured to sweet sweet sweet, not flavour.

    It is sad.

  46. NatalieErin says:

    @katstermonster:
    #2 is only true at chain restaurants and diners, IMO. A lot of the little breakfast places I’ve been to only have real syrup.

    @HogwartsAlum: Someone made a Little House on the Prairie cookbook? I believe I’ll be asking for that for xmas.

  47. h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

    @subtlefrog: Heh, no worries, dear. I just figured you didn’t know it was me.
    And while I appreciate the fact that it’s cane sugar rather than HFCS…you do not desecrate breakfast foods in such a manner. It is simply not done.

  48. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    @PsiCop: They do it this way so that you go into their store section and buy the matching bigger bottle for home use.

  49. SG-Cleve says:

    @PsiCop: Real maple syrup is way too expensive to allow diners to pour their own from a large decanter.

  50. katstermonster says:

    @MostlyHarmless: Hey, I never said I was giving up the Big C for the weekend.

    @EarlNowak: Ah, so true. I guess living here in CT I benefit from being close to all the syrup-making, etc. Kind of blew my mind wen I figured out other people didn’t eat the good stuff. Heh. How expensive is it in other parts of the US?

    @subtlefrog: Yesssss…..accidental, I say. Haha. Now that I look at it, it makes sense that some people don’t know the difference, simply by geography. Still hurts me, though. I love my male — er, MAPLE syrup!

    @Laura Northrup: Same here. I actually use syrup pretty sparingly, because I only make pancakes or french toast a few times a year, and it’s definitely worth the price to have it around. My mother buys in bulk. YUM.

  51. inadequatewife says:

    @EarlNowak: Maple and Snow in the same sentence = Maple Taffy on Snow = pure decadence.

  52. bohemian says:

    @h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes: This ruins the point of getting pancakes at Cracker Barrel. It is one of those high calorie indulgence meals. The pure maple syrup was one of the indulgences because I rarely keep the real deal in the kitchen at home. I would rather they increased prices.

  53. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    @katstermonster: true
    my source:
    [www.minimus.biz]

    shows the closest smallest container of real is
    [www.minimus.biz]

  54. flavious27 says:

    @katstermonster: and they couldn’t keep the syrup containers in a reach-in?

  55. Tim says:

    @Dacker: And, of course, a burnt pan. Someone did that last year, the year after I left. I wonder if it’s been replaced.

  56. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @tankertodd: Diabetics everywhere curse you, you… gourmet you.

  57. h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

    @Dacker: We always get grade B, although my family got A Fancy when I was little. My fiance grew up on Long Island and had never really had much experience with real maple syrup. We had to go back to Vermont for a funeral and I took him by one of the local tourist traps so the proprietor could let him taste the full range of syrups. I made a Grade B convert that day.

  58. ludwigk says:

    @bohemian: They could switch to a tiny cruet of maple syrup, buy big bottles of it, and save money that way. Not every pancake customer needs a sealed bottle. This is what they do at Denny’s, although they don’t even use real maple syrup.

  59. dragonfire81 says:

    @inadequatewife: Mmmmmmmm good! That’s the stuff right there. As a Canadian I love me some maple syrup or maple taffy or maple candies, but down here in the southwest they are hard to come by but I always make sure to have my relatives from up north send me down some for Christmas. :D

  60. katstermonster says:

    @bohemian: They do upcharge. The container TCama is talking about is most likely NOT real maple syrup.

    @catastrophegirl: Ah, thank you much. I thought so.

  61. inadequatewife says:

    @SG-Cleve: When the sap is “running” here in the spring, we can go to all you can eat pancake and sausage breakfasts for about $7 per adult (church, firehall, etc – not actual restaurants). They serve pure maple syrup in Rubbermaid pitchers, also all you can pour.

    The syrup comes from a local maple farm, and they have a table in the corner set up to sell their products. They do quite a brisk business.

    The syrup may be expensive, but decanters eliminate the “theft” of the little bottles (yes, I know they are paid for in the cost of the meal) and the waste from half-used bottles. I’d think it would balance out in the end.

  62. ChuckECheese says:

    @kaceetheconsumer: @kaceetheconsumer: Don’t forget syphilis! Syphilis is natural.

  63. kaceetheconsumer says:

    @Shoelace: This whole thread is a larch.

  64. stormbird says:

    @kaceetheconsumer: I have found that if you put in chocolate chips or butterscotch chips, you don’t need syrup. The nieces love that for brinner (breakfast for dinner).

    HFCS is evil. It turns off the hor

  65. ktetch says:

    @bohemian: Yeah, i’ve noticed the shrinking portions too.

    The nearest big town to me is a truck-stop town on I20, so they have a Cracker Barrel. We’d go every so often. We noticed about a year ago that the portions just didn’t fill us up any more, and we’d still leave hungry.

    We went Friday night in fact, first time in 7 months. We were left waiting for our food for 45 minutes (our server was so busy helping others that she forgot to put in our order) then after the manager got involved, our food finally came. My order was wrong, and took 2 more trips to the kitchen to solve it. The manager took care of the bill, but it’s the first time in the 9 years we’ve been together that my wife (born and raised here in Georgia) hasn’t tipped (she was REALLY pissed when the server said it ‘wasn’t really her fault’)

    We were considering going there for Thanksgiving (experimenting with alternatives to expensive thanksgiving cooking – especially as I’m British and it doesn’t really matter to me) but now we’ll probably look at other places. Might go back to CB another time, but it will be a month or three at least

  66. Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

    @Tankueray: A+! I’m the same way…. might die of cancer, but at least I was able to cut out 500 calories a day with substitutes!

  67. nbs2 says:

    @stormbird: When I was in college, the cafeteria would alternate between sweet (pancake/french toast) and salty (bacon/sausage/eggs). On sweet days, it was always 4 pancakes and a 1/2 pound of chocolate chips. So good.

  68. RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

    @Tankueray: Karo aside, the south has been known for favoring highly sweet condiments and dishes. Maple rarely made it down here, but we made do with sorghum, cane syrup, and molasses, all of which are likely far sweeter than maple, and probably have a less complex taste (with the possible exception of the molasses). Although I’ve never seen anyone put pure Karo on their pancakes; in my family it was used for cooking, and then mostly pecan pie (also known for being diabetes-inducingly sweet.)

    I’ve always preferred jams, jellies, and preserves to syrups, anyway. Or even straight-up honey. They’re far, FAR better on biscuits than maple syrup, anyway. Maple I can take or leave, but I’ll kill the man who comes between me and a fresh biscuit with homemade strawberry preserves. XD

  69. aloe vera says:

    @h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes: Count me in, too. My hubby makes it from trees we tap in our yard!
    ~40 gal sap = 1 gal syrup

    We’re currently doing it totally backyard sugaring style right now (boiling in an old keg) but hope to get an evaporator pan for this coming season.

  70. katia802 says:

    @speedwell, new and improved: Think my blood sugar went up 200 points just thinking about that one!

  71. Trai_Dep says:

    @HogwartsAlum: Thanks! :D

  72. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    @Trai_Dep: Something tells me that the Cracker Barrel wouldn’t make it very far in Canada, indeed.

    I’m sure they think we’re all hoodlems anyway, after reading the comments on this post it seems like most people don’t realise there is a difference between real Maple syrup and the kind that they are used to eating : /

    My dad thought Log Cabbin was the real thing too. I educated him and he actually helped me take the picture of the bottles. He is really proud of himself that he contributed. He said that I’m famous now and he helped, lol.