from our Fall 2015 Risk & Business magazine.
by Bob Norman, Branch Manager, Calais F.A. Peabody
‘In 1998 Kevin Brannen was searching for “something to do” during mud season. Kevin was a logger and every spring the Maine logging industry shuts down for several weeks for what is affectionately called “mud season”. He and his wife, Kristi, had purchased some land that they had recently surveyed for wood value by a forester. As it turns out, this 80 acre parcel of woodland, close to their home in Smyrna, included a 40 acre mature maple sugar bush grove. A rare find according to the forester.
Most sugar maple stands in this part of Maine have long since been harvested for firewood. Firewood offers a good short term cash flow from hardwood that has for decades taken a back seat to soft wood used in the paper and pulp industry. It takes approximately 40 years for a maple tree to reach the required diameter of 9 to 10 inches before it can be tapped for sap. Kevin recalled happy memories of tapping maple trees with his great grandfather and great uncle as young boy and thought that producing maple syrup would occupy him during mud season and supplement down-time income.
When asked how the name “Spring Break” came about for their business, Kristi replied with a grin, “Well, we started during the mud season, which is our spring break in the woods industry and Spring Break sounded much better than Mud Season for a business name”.
Spring Break now taps about 3,000 maple trees on the woodlot behind their manufacturing and retail operation. This is a small sugar bush grove by Maine standards with some operations in western Maine harvesting between 75,000 and 100,000 maple trees. This translates to the Brannen’s being required to purchase some of their maple syrup from other operations, assuming it meets their standards, for their maple sugar candy division.
After the first year of tapping trees in 1998, Kevin wanted to increase the number of trees tapped and produce more syrup. This lead to a local market study for demand and greater syrup production. The Brannen’s were able to sell all their syrup through local retail establishments and craft fairs. In 2001, they bought out a friend’s honey business as a hobby. It has since become an important part of the business. In 2005, they moved their syrup manufacturing facility from the woodlot to a main road location for greater visibility and there has been no looking back.
In 2010, the Brannen’s purchased a long established maple sugar products business in central Maine, which added the production of maple sugar candy. Today, Spring Break is the largest producer of maple candy in the State of Maine, making candy year round. Last year they expanded their retail store which specializes in Made-in-Maine products along with a manufacturing facility. The new facility, particularly in dealing with humidity, allows greater quality control over the maple candy making process, from manufacturing through drying and packaging.
Today, their products are sold as far west as Colorado by both small and major retail operations. In the maple products industry they produce maple syrup, maple sugar, maple cream, and maple candy. Both maple cream and maple candy are fast growing products for Spring Break and the future looks bright. The Brannen’s goal is to continue to expand their business into niche markets with more specialty products.
Not only does Spring Break produce and bottle maple sugar products and honey products but they also sell maple industry equipment for Leader Evaporator Company. The same made in the USA equipment which they use throughout their facility.
To learn more about Spring Break and their products go to MaineMapleandHoney.com.’