Anyone following local social media channels will have seen this face before. A tireless promotor of the Poulin family business, Red Mill Maple Syrup, Jeremy has become the face of the brand: a youthful image to invigorate a traditional product.
Syrup production has been in the family for generations. Jeremy’s great grandfather began by producing maple sugar “loaves” at the age of 15 to help support his family in a small town in Quebec and his grandfather manufactured and distributed syrup evaporations throughout the province. Jeremy’s father Sebastien launched the family syrup business on Deyell Line, where they now tap 1400 trees and produce an extensive line of maple products available year-round from the retail outlet on the property as well as through an extensive network of retailers in Peterborough, Durham and Northumberland counties.
Father and son do not get in each other’s way- they each have a role to play and the lines are clear- Dad Sebastian is the production master, carefully boiling sap in small batches over wood fires-a very traditional process.
A recent high-school graduate, Jeremy is a natural marketer; a chatty, personable young man who brings a modern vision to the family business. Viewed as a healthy sweetener, the all-natural product boasts a lower glycemic index and fewer calories than sugar, and because it is sweeter than sugar, less syrup is required to obtain a sweet taste in the kitchen. Appreciating the appetite for unique products and bolder flavours, Jeremy has introduced new products to supplement the tradition grades of syrup offered at Red Mill. Among them are flavoured products such as Bourbon Barrel Aged syrup stored in oak bourbon barrel for up to a year, Cinnamon flavoured syrup, maple butters, candies, soaps and candles. He has even teamed up with Millbrook entrepreneur Suzanne Schmit of Suzanne’s Hot Stuff to create a Thai Maple Ginger Sauce for cooking.
When participating in annual Maple fest events, visitors to Red Mill’s “sugar shack” were treated to tradition maple taffy, produced by spreading hot syrup on fresh, clean snow. The weather didn’t always accommodate sourcing this key ingredient, so Jeremy decided to explore ways to make the product less susceptible to the whims of Mother Nature. He began to search for a refrigerator that would allow him to produce and store a snow-equivalent, ensuring pristine ingredients over an extended season while expanding the production capacity. Maple weekend events usually generate many short visits from people stopping by. Jeremy was looking to create a more immersive experience for the public, where they could taste a variety of products at a more leisurely pace. He was also looking to make his experience mobile, by having a tasting set-up that could be transported to different venues. It was going to require cash and creativity, so he got to work.
He applied to the Peterborough and the Kawartha’s “Spark” Mentorship and grants program, which is a partnership initiative between the Tourism Innovation Lab, Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development and Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism. The program’s goal is to find, foster and support new tourism ideas, experiences and partnerships that will enhance current offerings, address gaps or challenges, motivate travel and longer stays, and increase year-round visits in the region. Jeremy was one of sixteen applicants, and after making a winning pitch, he received a $3,000 seed grant to support his idea. In addition, he will receive a three-month mentorship with a tourism innovator, experienced operator or sector expert to help him implement his plan to enhance tourism in the area. He impressed the judges with his vision of building on the extensive network maple producers in the area to make it a gastro-tourism destination, at least for the maple season.
Even with the new equipment, Jeremy estimates that the season for this tourism initiative will last only two months. In the meantime, he is working on his real estate license, which is another industry where his natural charm and ease with people will serve him well for the rest of the year. KG