SANDY HOOK, Conn. -- For 25 years Sandy Hook resident Dave Ackert did the daily grind, first working in direct marketing and later, in advertising and business development for media and technology start-ups.
After his company was sold to a large corporation a few years ago he thought about doing something more meaningful that would help families be happier and healthier.
His solution? Maple syrup.
He started first with Fruple Ice Pops, a frozen treat made from fresh fruit and homemade maple syrup.
"My original inspiration came from a desire to help reduce stress for moms in my neighborhood after the tragedy here in Sandy Hook," he said.
So, instead of parents and kids waging a nightly debate whenever the ice cream truck rolled down the street, he came up with a dairy, nut and gluten-free treat.
The pops were a hit -- and something the Norwalk native was able to bring to market -- but once September rolled around, the seasonal realities and challenges for the frozen treat category become evident. So, he developed a business plan to help achieve his mission to “Make Life Sweet. Naturally" --and do it year-round.
Fast forward to now and this "Chief Maple Maven" is the founder of Maple Craft Foods, LLC, a two-year Connecticut-based specialty foods company focused on…you guessed it…maple syrup. (His parents, who still live in Norwalk, are his business partners.)
Maple syrup, he said, has always been a special seasonal family tradition since his kids were born and so it was a natural next step when he was thinking about starting a business.
Ackert swears Maple Craft Foods is not like other maple syrup producers or brands. Rather, he works with select Vermont maple producers to transform "the amazing nectar that they harvest, into unique, award-winning flavored maple syrups."
"Our mission is to make it easy for families to replace processed and artificially sweetened/flavored foods with better-for-you, locally and sustainably harvested maple syrup, while supporting local farming traditions," he said.
The items -- there are five varieties -- are sold throughout the area at Silverman's Farm in Easton, the Stamford Museum & Nature Center as well as Stop & Shops in Norwalk, Westport, Wilton, Ridgefield, and Fairfield.
He also ships bottles and gift boxes from his website.
Worth noting: his family-friendly Bourbon Barrel Aged maple syrup was voted number one in the sweetener category by a panel of food critics and celebrity chefs at the Connecticut Food Association’s 2016 specialty foods competition. The four other organically flavored pure maple syrups include Salted Caramel, Apple Cinnamon, Blueberry and Pumpkin Spice.
And, says Ackert, they're not just for breakfast. The syrups also make delicious (and healthier) ice cream toppings, coffee or tea sweeteners and adult cocktail ingredients. (Maple syrup, he stressed, has two-thirds the sucrose as sugar, more potassium than bananas, more calcium than milk, and 65 important antioxidants and helpful minerals and compounds including some that are showing promise in recent tests for treating diseases like Alzheimer’s.)
"The Bourbon Barrel Aged maple syrup is an amazing glaze for salmon, pork or other proteins, as well as over sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts or carrots," he said.
"Maple Craft Syrup is also an excellent healthy sweetener replacement for favorite baking recipes; in fact, King Arthur Flour sells more of our syrup than just about any other retail partner."
In other "sweet news," there are new flavors in the pipeline as well as plans to introduce other products that replace highly processes sugars with pure maple syrup.
The company is also busy with local PTAs and other volunteer organizations to help them run healthier fundraisers for the holidays as well as with corporate buyers for holiday gifts.
Said Ackert: "If ‘crafting’ can transform the beer and spirits industry, we figure it can transform the sweetener industry as well."
Go to www.maplecraftfoods.com for more details.
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