Log Cabin Chronicles

Corporate giant trying to stomp
Vermont maple family

John Mahoney

JOHN MAHONEY

Billion-dollar corporations with balls of brass and bad attitudes seem to go out of their way to make it easy to detest them. Take Aurora Foods Inc. for example.

aurora logoIn providing "tender loving care" -- their claim, not mine -- for one of their "premium branded food products" -- their term, not mine -- they are effectively trying to wreck a small Vermont maple syrup business.

Here's what Aurora Foods is doing to Jim and Judy MacIsaac of Starksboro, Vermont.

Sugarworks logoThe MacIsaacs own Higland Sugarworks Inc., and sell pure Vermont maple syrup, some of it marketed in small glass containers that resemble a log cabin.

Along comes Aurora, which owns the "heritage" syrup brands Log Cabin and Mrs. Butterworth's. Together, these two brands control 34 percent of the North American syrup market.

Their corporate lawyers charge that the MacIsaacs, who are committed to sustainable agriculture, are trying confuse the public by selling genuine Vermont maple syrup in glass cabins, thus imitating Aurora's corn-syrup based Log Cabin brand.

Aurora has demanded that Highland Sugarworks:

  • stop using the little glass cabins
  • destroy all the little glass cabins
  • give Aurora, which earned $1.05 billion last year, all profits made from selling Vermont maple syrup in the little glass cabins
Not only does mean-spirited Aurora have corporate balls of brass and a bad attitude, but its Breakfast Division's chief yahoo, Ed Yuhas, does terrible things to the English language.

log cabin logoLog Cabin, says Ed, "is one of America's most venerable brand names."

Jeezumcrowbars, Ed, venerable?

Mother Theresa was venerable.

Blessed Oliver Plunkett was venerable.

The Venerable Bede was venerable 1300 years ago in England.

But Log Cabin syrup, Ed...I don't think so.

Just to be sure, I whipped on down to the Grand Union in Newport, Vermont, to check out the containers and contents of Log Cabin Syrup and good old Mrs. Butterworth's.

butterworth's logoThe containers were equally ugly, despite Aurora's contention that "Mrs. Butterworth's distinctive grandmother-shaped bottle...represents a fun image to families with children..."

Come on, I live with a grandmother and although she can be a fun girl, she isn't shaped like that.

Actually, both containers could easily be mistaken for holders of liquid dish detergent or something you'd pour in your toilet bowl before company comes.

Now, for the product comparison.

The MacIsaacs sell pure maple syrup, the contents of which are obtained by boiling the hell out of 40 gallons of maple sap and evaporating 39 gallons of water, leaving you with one gallon of pure, unadulterated syrup. They are committed to sustainable agriculture.

Aurora hires "well-known contract manufacturers" -- their words, not mine -- to produce and bottle Log Cabin syrup.

This is what Aurora Foods has its contract manufacturers put in Log Cabin syrup before "taking breakfast to another level" -- their words, not mine:

  • high fructose corn syrup
  • corn syrup
  • sugar syrup
  • water
  • pure maple syrup
  • salt
  • artificial flavoring
  • cellulose gum
  • caramel coloring
  • a list of chemical agents I cannot pronounce, let alone spell.
Well, Ed, that's a champion list of ingredients "for those who want the best for breakfast" -- your words, not mine. And how much, and what grade, "pure maple syrup" do you put in before adding the salt, gum, and all those chemicals?

Hey, maybe that's good eating if you have to live in Bettendorf, Iowa, but misterman, not in Vermont or Quebec, which is the world's largest producer of pure maple syrup.

"I laugh," Judy MacIsaac told the Associated Press, "but it's not funny."

The MacIsaacs are going to have to get a lawyer to defend them, of course, and their pockets aren't nearly as deep as the yahoos of Aurora Foods Inc., whose claim to fame rests on "focused marketing resources and devoted management care and attention."

As Yahoo Ed puts it: "We don't take imitation as a form of flattery."

Surely, Ed, you don't mean that pure Vermont maple syrup, as made and sold by the MacIsaacs, is an imitation of your imitation syrup?

Ed, I live in a log cabin, used to produce pure maple syrup, still love the stuff, and I pledge to you right here and now never, ever to confuse Log Cabin syrup with the real thing. Also never to consume it.

HIGHLAND SUGARWORKS INC.

AURORA FOODS INC.


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Copyright © 2000 John Mahoney/Log Cabin Chronicles/02.2000