Public accountability also drew Janie Brooks Heuck, general manager of the Brooks winery, in the Eola-Amity Hills area of Oregon. In addition to being certified biodynamic by the Demeter organization, Brooks is also a B Company and a member of 1 Percent for the Planet, a network of companies and individuals supporting environmental causes.
For Ramon Escobar, a retired American diplomat, importing wines and spirits from Bolivia is a way to promote economic development in the agricultural areas of the poor country. He describes his Washington-based company Chufly Imports as an “impact company” that can help “break Bolivia’s age-old poverty trap by sharing its age-old wine tradition with the world.” Not to mention singani, the delicious brandy from Bolivia distilled from Moscow grapes. Escobar cites a study that found that 10 families can be lifted out of poverty for every 25 acres of vineyard planted in Bolivia. The company’s wines and singani are available nationwide at Chufly.com.
The altruism that these three companies express is not motivated by profit, but it could have a positive effect on their bottom line. In its annual report on the state of the US wine industry, released this month, Silicon Valley Bank noted generational changes among US consumers. Baby boomers (aged 56 to 74) fueled the wine boom of the 1980s and beyond, but are nearing full retirement, buying less and contenting themselves with drinking their cult Cabernet collections. They will be overtaken this year by Generation X (40 to 55) as the biggest buyer of wine, according to the report. But the wine industry is really salivating on the larger Millennial cohort (24-39), which so far has been more interested in craft beer, spirits, and hard seltzer.
Millennials are starting to spend more on wine, but they’re not interested in all of the geeky aspects that have turned baby boomers on, such as grape blends, pH levels, or reviewers’ point scores. “The aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the protests that followed [shows] that young consumers expect more from the brands they adopt and support, ”the report says.
These young consumers “want to know that those who have wealth are contributing in one way or another to a better world.” It is not only environmental or health issues, but also “concerns for social justice, equity and diversity are pushing these consumers to put unprecedented pressure on companies to adopt these issues in their platforms. brand ”, states the SVB report. This includes wine.
The B Corp certification is valid for three years and is only renewed if a company improves its score, so Heuck has created a team at Brooks to look at the things the winery can do. Each employee receives 20 paid volunteer hours per year and the winery has adopted a living wage scale. “We asked all of our suppliers to sign a code of conduct – our producers, our glass company, our labeling company and our cork supplier,” says Heuck. B Corps is also a great network. Last summer, Heuck launched a community-supported agricultural network with a Willamette Valley farmer who lost his market when restaurants in Portland closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. She also launched a monthly online virtual tasting series called Beyond Brooks, in partnership with producers of olive oil, cheese, kombucha and other artisanal products.
As part of Winderlea’s B Corp certification, Sweat and Morris signed a pledge to make the winery carbon neutral by 2030. “Our biggest carbon footprint is shipping wine to customers,” says Sweat. “We’re not going to stop the delivery.” But they reduced the weight of their bottles from 830 grams to 520 grams. They also buy carbon offsets, investing in another company B that is working on carbon sequestration in agriculture.
There may not be a ledger line showing the effect of these efforts on a company’s bottom line, but these entrepreneurs believe there is an impact.
“I think consumers buy with a different lens,” Morris says. “It’s not just the product you make. I think they feel good buying from companies they like. “
As Escobar says of his efforts to create an American market that can help Bolivian winemakers escape poverty, “Who wouldn’t want to do good by drinking good juice?”