The Real Reason Only IHOP In Vermont Has Real Maple Syrup

There are few breakfast combinations as iconic as pancakes and maple syrup. Advertisers and restaurants know this well and love tempting hungry customers with photos of towering stacks of flapjacks under a waterfall of golden brown syrup. When that plate is served and diners reach for the little pitcher on the side, what they may not consider is what they're about to pour over their pancakes. It may look and smell like maple syrup, but is it really? 

Popular pancake chain, IHOP, is known for its syrup caddy with fruity and nutty choices along with one simply called "Old Fashioned." If you assume that "old fashioned" is just another name for pure maple syrup, we're sorry to rain on your pancakes — it isn't!

According to the nutritional information listed on IHOP's website, their Old Fashioned "Maple" Syrup is made with corn syrup, water, and sugar, along with artificial flavors and preservatives. There isn't a trace of real maple syrup in there. So what can you do if you really love IHOP and also want real maple syrup to top off your pancakes and waffles

One option is to start carrying a little bottle of real maple syrup around with you. The other option is to head to Vermont, the only state where IHOP offers the real stuff. There are two main reasons why Vermont's IHOP restaurant does this: The Vermonters, who love their pure maple, and the law! 

Vermont takes its maple syrup very seriously

According to the New York Times, Vermont was the last state in the country to get an IHOP restaurant, which opened in 2009. The franchise owner of the Vermont location, Sam Handy Jr. petitioned IHOP to make a change from their usual syrup offerings and allow him to provide real maple syrup at the location. Handy says, "You can't open up a Vermont pancake shop without Vermont maple syrup." Handy purchases the syrup from Vermont producers, and diners pay extra to get the real stuff, deeming it worth every penny to enjoy the sticky, sweet flavor of local maple syrup. 

This move by Vermont's IHOP also aligns with the state's laws around how businesses can use the term "maple" to promote and sell products. The statutes, per the state's website, prohibit companies from labeling products as maple or "maple-flavored" unless they're truly made with pure maple syrup. Even labeling with the term "artificially-flavored maple" is a no-no. 

According to CBS News, this same law landed McDonald's in hot water with the state in 2011. The offending product was McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal, which at the time contained no real maple syrup. The chain came to a settlement with the state by offering customers real maple syrup with the oatmeal cups, but only in Vermont locations. 

Those living outside of the state are certainly missing out, but the real takeaway from all this — don't mess with maple syrup in Vermont!