Scientists and maple syrup producers collaborate to create a quick test for determining the quality of maple sap.

Quebec is a world leader in the production of maple syrup, and the quality of its “liquid gold” is world-renowned. In order to maintain this high standard, the Quebec Maple Syrup Producers Association and researchers at the Université de Montréal have developed a portable test to predict the quality of the syrup based on the harvested sap.

The method developed by UdeM’s chemists and mathematicians has been given the scientific name “COLORI test.” The findings were made public on March 21 in the ACS Food Science & Technology journal.

Jean-François Masson, a UdeM chemistry professor and lead co-author of the scientific paper, stated, “We were able to develop the COLORI test, patent it, and produce the first 250 units thanks to the support of the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Industrial Bioprocesses in Quebec.” The maple syrup producers who took part in our project have already used all of the tests.

“With the help of the Collaboration for Research and Innovation in Industrial Bioprocesses in Quebec, we were able to create the COLORI test, patent it, and construct the first 250 units,”

Jean-François Masson, an UdeM chemistry professor and lead co-author of the scientific paper.

Fast and simple nanotechnology

Nanotechnology that is quick and easy to use The new COLORI test is a member of the nanotechnology family and is simple to use. The process begins with a small tube containing a solution of gold nanoparticles and a few drops of sap. The amino acids and amines, which are linked to specific changes in maple syrup’s flavor, bind to the gold nanoparticles, causing them to form a group and altering the way light interacts with the solution. Subsequently, the arrangement changes tone from red to blue — a change that can be seen with the unaided eye in practically no time.

The fact that this test can be used at the sugar shack, where the results can be immediately interpreted and implemented, is its primary benefit. To support the production of high-quality maple syrup, this highly sensitive and, as a result, highly effective method provides accurate information about the properties of maple sap in real time.

“We empower organizations among organizations and the public exploration local area to make inventive arrangements that address explicit issues and are economically suitable,” said the Consortium’s leader and chief, Mohammed Benyagoub. “By assisting Quebec’s maple syrup industry in ensuring the highest possible purity of the syrup it sells, the innovative COLORI project supports our goal of strengthening relationships and industry-university collaborative research.”

From detection to prediction

The COLORI test, which is used to identify undesirable compounds in maple products, was developed in Masson’s lab in 2018 in collaboration with Simon Forest, who was Masson’s research officer at the time and is now the producers’ association’s project manager for development and applied research. The first version of the test found a correlation between the test result and the intensity of maple syrup’s natural aromatic profiles, such as flavor profiles associated with sap and bud characteristics.

“The COLORI test, now in its second iteration, has evolved into a predictive tool: “The test has proven useful as a decision-support tool: it works with the maple sap and can determine if the compounds present in the sap harvested by the producer will yield high-quality maple syrup,” explained Forest, who also holds a master’s degree in chemistry from UdeM. for instance, to determine whether to boil sap that would not yield the desired syrup quality.”

The two chemists asked QMSP to co-develop the new test using a participatory science approach in order to transition from the first-generation COLORI test to the predictive COLORI test, which provides information on the sap’s organoleptic profile. The participation of a number of maple syrup producers in three phases of field tests made possible this new COLORI test, which only requires minimal infrastructure at the sugar shacks.

Additionally, Masson and Forest asked the UdeM mathematics professor Morgan Craig’s research team to construct a mathematical model that, using the sap’s molecular profile, including its amino acids, can predict the kind of maple syrup that will be produced. “The maple syrup producers are able to better manage production thanks to their model, which provides a sense of what the final product will be like,” Masson explained.

Credit: University of Montreal

Quebec’s biofood sector is maple syrup production, which will soon be widely available. In 2022, the maple syrup industry will have contributed $1 billion to the GDP of Quebec. The province is the world’s leading producer of maple syrup, producing 95 million kilograms in 2022 with 13,300 producers and accounting for nearly three-quarters of global production.

The QMSP’s marketing agreement, the Convention de mise en marché du sirop d’érable, sets strict taste, inspection, and classification criteria for Quebec maple syrup to determine its market value. Before turning maple sap into maple syrup, producers of maple syrup would be able to evaluate and classify maple sap on a large scale using the COLORI test, which would also assist them in managing their production throughout the season.

“Quality is a top priority for Quebec’s maple syrup producers,” the producers’ association’s president, Luc Goulet, stated. The COLORI test, which will be widely available in 2024, provides our industry with a one-of-a-kind instrument for fine-tuning our procedures and preserving Quebec maple syrup’s reputation.”

More information: Simon Forest et al, Prediction of Maple Syrup Quality from Maple Sap with a Plasmonic Tongue and Ordinal Mixed-Effects Modeling, ACS Food Science & Technology (2023). DOI: 10.1021/acsfoodscitech.2c00397

Topic : Article