The Syrup of Shame & The Water of Disappointment.

Every time I cross the threshold of Asda, no matter what is on the list, I come out feeling angry, stressed and ever so slightly bewildered. It may not be instantaneous, but it will happen – this time was no exception. Being no stranger to the store, I prepare, steeling myself for the limited varieties of product on the shelves. Top of today’s list – maple syrup. Once an exotic mystery, known only through the pages of Richard Scarry books, it is now in every supermarket, in every town.

Maple syrup is an amazingly product in its own right. Produced from the sap of the Sugar Maple, Black Maple, Red Maple, or Silver Maple, it takes 40 litres of sap to produce 1 litre of the golden nectar. For this reason there is a natural expense attached to the product. Now, I know what it takes to make a bottle of Maple Syrup and will willingly pay up to five pounds for a bottle of this amber sweetness –which makes it even more of a mystery ‘why I would pick up a bottle that was only £1.59?’

In my defence, Asda usually only stocks one variety of MS, which, having been caught short before, I know isn’t very nice. So, on seeing a second variety, naturally I think ‘Ooo that’s new, perhaps it’s an introductory offer? After all it is a smaller bottle, maybe…’. I should have known, like a bad episode of Hustle, I’d fallen for the short con – If it looks too good to be true etc.

Clark’s Original Maple Syrup. Anyone want to guess what it contains? Maple Syrup? Yes, a whole 40%. The other three fifths? Carob syrup! I know what you’re thinking, because that’s exactly what I thought. In the US they have strict labelling laws which means if you label something maple syrup, it has to contain nothing but maple syrup, over here we obviously don’t. The bizarre labelling laws in this country enable supermarkets and producers across the land to fudge, suggest and tweak the origins of the product. Pigs born and raised in crates in Denmark, never seeing daylight, shipped here and slaughtered. British pork.

Although some of my ire is directed at Clark, a proportion is aimed at the grocery behemoth. Don’t they have some kind of duty not to lie to their customers? It seems that Asda are not alone at seeing their customers as merely figures on a balance sheet (why does that seem like the most obvious sentence ever written?). Even the ultimate ‘pop-in-to-get-some-bits’ emporium isn’t beyond taking the piss out of its loyal customer base.

May the following be entered as prosecution exhibit one.

I’ll just run through those figures again, because at first glance they could be a little confusing. 1.5l of Scottish mineral water is 49p, whilst 500ml of the same water is 70p. 1.5l of sparkling Scottish mineral water is a bargain 38p, whilst the 500ml bottle is, again, 70p. Leaving aside the question of why it costs more not to make water fizzy – why should 30% of the product be almost twice as much.

There are various arguments that I know M&S use to defend this pricing policy (although I’m waiting for my reply from Sir Stuart to have the definitive answer!), one of them is that the smaller bottles are part of the food-to-go range (despite no markings to indicate such inclusion), so are competitively priced compared to alternative beverages. I’m afraid this just doesn’t hold water [forgive me!] – it’s water, not Coke, or a smoothie, or juice – it’s just water.

Take their core food-to-go business – sandwiches. They don’t charge less for a triple pack, simply because a two is more convenient, nor do they competitively price all their sandwiches, because they are all sandwiches! I can’t see them charging the same for their best selling prawn mayonnaise (£1.65) as they do for their Salt Beef & Gherkin stack (£3.75), can you?

They are taking advantage of people, just like all major retailers do. It’s a shame, because whilst I always expect the worst of a visit to Asda, in my head I hold M&S in higher esteem. Maybe no retailer puts people before profit, but you’ve got to have a dream haven’t you?

21 comments on “The Syrup of Shame & The Water of Disappointment.”

  1. sophie dakin's comment - added on 4th of March, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    even though any comment i make will be tainted by the fact that I work for a big catering company and am therefore evil, these places are businesses, key word business. of course a small bottle of water is part of a grab and go offer, and actually what you should be pulling m&s up on is that fact that they stock plastic bottles of mineral water at all-not very “plan a” i would think. in regards to them competitively pricing their sandwiches, on what planet would you expect their sandwiches to be all the same price! they are priced competitively on a like for like basis-competing against the same sandwich filling from a different retailer.

  2. benD's comment - added on 4th of March, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    My problem is not with M&S charging 70p for their small bottles of water (although their supermarket rivals only charge in the region of 35p), but with them having such a discrepancy in price between the two sizes. I would pay 70p for the 500ml size if the larger sizes were more – all the difference in price (for the same product!) highlights is how opportunistic their pricing policy is.

  3. sophie dakin's comment - added on 4th of March, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    but my dear brother that is why m&s are so clever-they capitalise on people being lazy. if you are canny you but big bottles of water and take them into work with you, but m&s know that people can’t get themselves organised. so think of the extra cost as a tax on the lazy/disorganised-then you won’t feel so hard done by.

  4. Ashley Green's comment - added on 5th of November, 2010 at 9:03 am

    I found your website due to a search for Clarks Maple syrup website. I could not find it but did come across yours. I bought this “Maple Syrup” yesterday for £4.00. It had been reduced from 4.98 so I thought it was a good deal. Only when I had poured it on my dessert and tasted the vile concoction did I read the label. You would need glasses to read the blurb undernearth the big letters of Maple Syrup. Like you, I discovered this carob syrup is the first ingredient. I will take this back to Asda to get my money back as this is their problem and I don’t want to throw something out i’ve just paid 4 quid for. They can deal with the loss, not me. The label should cleary state in the big letters “Carob Syrup”. Rip off indeed.

  5. Capt.D.Cripps's comment - added on 27th of December, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    I totally agree with comments re the Labelling on Clarks “Original Maple Syrup”.
    Had I known it was 60% fruit syrup,I would not have purchased it.To whom can one
    complain?
    Clarks should somehow be penalised for misleading customers.

  6. Eileen Armstrong's comment - added on 7th of January, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Hello. I’ve never written to a food blog, but I find I am very cross indeed with Dr Oetker, so I want to share my frustration with like-minded Epicureans, before I burst.
    I was brought up on, among other things, Symington’s Maple Walnut Table Cream, an unusual blancmange-type pud that tasted of, well maple syrup and walnuts. (A bit of an acquired taste perhaps, but I certainly acquired it, and I am not the only one). Symingtons were taken over by Supercook, who have in turn recently been hoovered up by Dr Oetker.
    Guess what? Only bog-standard vanilla and strawberry table creams are to be made now, the same flavours as everybody else manufactures. How typical is it that a conglomerate moves in on a firm making a much loved, unique and niche product, only to get rid of it because it turns a bit less of a humungous profit than the standard lines?
    And I too almost fell for the Clarks carob syrup scam when I tried to make my own maple walnut dessert, but the price gave it away. Only one thing for it – pay the going rate for the real thing at Waitrose or Marks and Spencer, and hope for a decent harvest each year to keep the price down.
    Oh, and talk about annoying supermarkets and limited lines – on New Year’s Eve I went to my local, quite large Co-op to buy some Cheshire, Wensleydale or White Stilton cheese – ie anything soft, salty and crumbly.
    There were 19 different varieties of “cheddar”, including some cheddar with bits of God knows what in, some cheddar with no cheese in (for slimmers), some British cheddar, some imported cheddar, some white and orange cheddar, some mild and mature cheddar, some cheddar in jars, some processed “cheddar”slices, some cheddar in weird extruded shapes for children with stunted taste buds and short attention spans – but no other bloody British regional cheese! Since when was Cheshire or Wesleydale a niche product?! What’s going on?
    Thank you. I feel better now.

  7. Karin Aston's comment - added on 16th of June, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    How I agree with Eileen Armstrong about Symington’s Maple and Walnut Table Cream – already missing this lovely pud !

    They need to bring it back !

  8. lisa's comment - added on 27th of August, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    To be honest, I love Clark’s “Original Maple Syrup.” I love Maple syrup as well, but it’s around 6 quid for a 250ml bottle! Original Maple Syrup is only 1.89. I use it in porridge, occasionally have it in coffee and and sometimes as a flavouring for soya milk . Also, carob syrup is one of the healthiest sweeteners you can get. Do a search for “Nutrition Information for: Carob syrup” and have a look, it’s actually has nutrients instead of calories. I was chuffed to have a cheaper, healthy syrup that still had a relatively good maple flavour.

  9. Anne Carter's comment - added on 9th of October, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    I am in total agreement regarding the Symingtons Maple & walnut table cream. It is the only one worth eating – apart perhaps from vanilla, although that it not nearly as good. I have stood in front of the pudding section at Waitrose and been acosted by another elderly lady ” Are they out of maple and walnut do you know?” and have had to say “I think they have stopped keeping it.” I now understand from a previous comment that not only do Waitrose not stock it any more but it is no longer made. Are they all mad? The strawberry flavour is bright pink and far too sweet. I don’t think I am peculiar in feeling very strongly about maple & walnut. Please bring it back.

  10. Mike's comment - added on 17th of October, 2011 at 10:13 am

    I think this reaction sums up why there isn’t huge demand for Maple Syrup around the world and that Honey is always first choice for other uses other than pancakes. What the blended offering does is introduce a cost effective option that will get the masses on board to then progress and appreciate 100% pure maple syrups. There is no point in bringing snobbery when the option is a completely natural substitute that offers as much nutritional goodness.
    I only recently tasted Maple Syrup which turned out to be the Clarkes Blended. I could afford it and loved it. Now I have the taste for it I’m more likely to try better quality syrups.

  11. Peter Plumridge's comment - added on 23rd of October, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I feel that I was “conned” into buying the Clark’s “Original maple Syrup” in Tesco as the bit saying it is more carob than maple is far to small to read. That said it tastes OK. Wondering if anyone knows if it is suitable for veggies or vegans. Does not say so on the label and the “natural flavouring” mentioned in the ingredients list could be something like honey……..natural but not vegan.

  12. Kate Smith's comment - added on 22nd of November, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    I almost purchased the blended syrup recently but didn’t because I read the label first. I will agree that the marketing is missleading but I do think we all have a responsibility to ourselves to investigate the foods we consume.

    The price is a bit of a giveaway too. Definately an example of the old “buy cheap buy twice” mantra.

  13. Bev Cox's comment - added on 23rd of November, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Have been searching high and low for Symingtons Maple & Walnut Table Cream which have always been scarce, only to find they have stopped being made!!! I have always bought 6 of them at a time because of scarcity but now I only have 1 left (and its out of date) but my dilemma is to use it now or wait for that very special occasion that requires this tasty gem of a pudding?

  14. Marysia's comment - added on 5th of December, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I have just been conned by Clarks Original Maple Syrup. The blurb about the carob fruit syrup is incredibly small and I didn’t look at the price. I wrote to Clarks and they immediately offered to send me the real thing. They claim that their labels have been approved by trading standards and have offered to send me the real thing as a replacement.
    A free bottle of maple syrup is not going to make me go away. Above anything, I hate being deceived and I am going to hound these people until someone, somewhere makes them change the deceiving label.

  15. Dorothy Tatton's comment - added on 31st of January, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    I totally agree with all those who think Maple and Walnut and Coffee are the best flavours for Table Creams. What is the point of just making Vanilla and Strawberry when these flavours are used in countless other desserts? Somebody should show a bit of initiative.

  16. JCWHITE's comment - added on 27th of February, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Totally agree with above poster
    I am desperate for maple and walnut, (had forgotton about coffee!)
    Is there any way I can get some?

  17. Helen Marshall's comment - added on 11th of December, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Am also desperate to find a seller of maple walnut table creams and Soupe de Poissons [in packet or carton]. Anyone any ideas please? The latter is freely available in France but I don’t get there every week!

  18. Tony's comment - added on 26th of January, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    I would point out that this Clarks product is NOT an ASDA exclusive product, not made by or for ASDA. It also points out on the front of the label, that it is blended and it does not claim to be 100% maple syrup. There is clearly no attempt to lie to their customers.
    Surely no-one shops with their eyes shut, especially if you aim to make piblic comment about what you have bought. Read the label, know what you are purchasing, then you have no axe to grind.

  19. benD's comment - added on 28th of January, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Erm, at no point do I mention that Clarks is an Asda exclusive product, and as you can see from the quite large photo (the old packaging – I realise they have repackaged their line since this post) there is NO mention of any blend and it does give the impression that it is JUST maple syrup I’m afraid.
    I try to explain that I shopped in haste on that occasion, but to think that everyone fills a trolley looking at every label, front AND back… all I can suggest is that you stand in Asda/Tesco/Sainsburys/Morrisons and watch people, because they don’t.

  20. john's comment - added on 12th of February, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    i purchased some of this to go on my pancakes today. usually love maple syrup. but this taste nothing like it. looked on the back and it now says it is only 35% maple syrup! ridiculous

  21. KeithR's comment - added on 13th of February, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    I too thought I had bought a small bottle of Clarks Original Maple Syrup thinking it was real thing. But the fact that there is only 35% maple syrup in it isn’t my complaint, it is that it tastes so awful! Lyle’s can make a perfectly acceptable maple tasting syrup and that’s fine by me and there label isn’t misleading about what you are buying. Never again Mr Clark, this is not for enjoyable eating!

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