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2017 Nova Scotia Exporter of the Year in Dubai

Monday, October 30, 2017

Once the shock of winning 2017 Exporter of the Year began to wear off, Hutchinson’s Maple Products faced a welcome dilemma. What to do with two airline tickets anywhere Air Canada flies in the world?

Leanne Dobrota, Sales Manager for Hutchinson’s, describes how they simplified the decision.  “We thought, okay, let's go as far as we can go. Let’s check out Dubai.”

That initial thought turned serendipitous when they discovered there was a food show, SEAFEX, that September in Dubai. And the icing on the cake; Trade Team PEI was headed there for a trade mission. So Dobrota and the owner of Hutchinson’s, Anna Hutchinson, invited themselves along.

“You could say everything just seemed to fall into place,” said Dobrota.

Watch the Pure Infused Maple Syrup pitch on CBC's Dragons' Den

While in market, Hutchinson and Dobrota were able to book a number of face-to-face meetings in Dubai, and piggyback side trips to France, Amsterdam and Germany, where they just happened to land a meeting with one of the largest distributors in Europe. A distributor who just happens to work with a number of Michelin star restaurants. A distributor who just happened to love a few key differentiators offered by Hutchinson’s.

“The distributor really appreciated our flexibility. That we can private label, and we're single source. He liked that because we're a producer and a packer, he would be dealing with one company,” said Dobrota.

While Hutchinson’s credits trips like this for helping them better understand the market, there was one tool that made a big difference before they even left.

“What really helped us was the TMI report done through NSBI. The information in the report helped ensure we positioned our infused maple product, PURE, properly.”

“Take Dubai. Everybody thinks it’s a money's-no-object market, but they've become increasingly price-sensitive over the years. We learned the demographic is very young in Dubai. They are cooking less and eating out more because of the high cost of ingredients in the grocery stores because everything is imported. That helped us position more towards the hotel and restaurant industry.”

For a company that focused on ‘getting good at home first,’ Hutchinson’s is taking the same measured approach to exporting. Dobrota is quick to further credit flexibility as a key driver to success.

“We can do anything because we're small and we don't have a lot of channels to go through. We are a producer, a packer, and we do it all. Shipping, we have the logistics down. The owners of the company owned a trucking company for 20 years. We know logistics, so that is a huge help to us. We don't say no to anything. We just find a way to get it done.”

Dobrota shares a perfect example.

“We approached Sobey's about using our sample packs for Christmas and they told us we had missed the boat because it was too late to get them into the warehouse. I told them, no problem, I’ll deliver them to every single store in the Maritimes.”

“We got the order.”

One thing Hutchinson’s does not do is take success for granted. “We were taking the train to Germany and I just looked at Anna and said, "Do not take this for granted for one minute. We're in a train station in Paris going to Germany for an appointment. Two women from Lake Paul, Nova Scotia, selling maple syrup in Germany.”

“It was just mind-boggling to us.”

On that note, congratulations again to Hutchinson’s Maple Products, 2017 Exporter of the Year. And because nothing says celebration more than cake; here is just one of the many recipes you can browse on the Pure Infused site:

Pure Infused Maple Spice Cake


  • 1 whole five-point star anise
  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream
  • 1/4 cup PURE Infused Maple Syrup – Vanilla, Cinnamon and Star Anise
  • 1 1/2 cup raw cane sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs

Optional Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar (sifted)
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon PURE Infused Maple Syrup – Vanilla, Cinnamon and Star Anise

To start, grind your spices, you’ll want them very fine. You can use a spice/coffee grinder or a heavy mortar and pestle to do the job. Obviously, the mortar and pestle would be more work, but crushing things can be great fun.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Prepare your bundt pan by greasing it with butter or a nonstick cooking spray.

Combine all of the dry ingredients (spices, flour, and the baking powder and soda) in large mixing bowl, and whisk to evenly distribute all of the ingredients.

In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and maple syrup.

Beat the butter and sugar using an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes on medium/high speed.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat at medium speed for another minute or two. Be sure and scrape down the sides of the bowl, so everything is evenly incorporated.

Add about a third of the flour mixture to the mixing bowl, and beat on med/low speed for a minute or two, until combined. Next, add about half of the sour cream mixture to the batter, and mix to combine. Continue with another third of the flour mixture, combine, and the rest of the sour cream mixture, and finally the last of the flour mixture. Continue to beat the batter for another minute or two, it should be smooth, and free of lumps.

Pour the batter into your greased bundt pan, and bake for 50-55 minutes at 350F. A cake tester or bamboo skewer should come out clean once inserted into the center of the cake.

Let the cake cool for about 20 minutes in the pan before inverting it over a plate or cake stand to remove. If the cake looks like it’s stuck to the pan along the top, just run a butter knife around the edge to loosen it. Sometimes, if the batter sloshes around going in the oven, the edges will stick, but usually, this just slides right out of the pan without any fuss.