Natural Grocers Leads Commitment to Organic Wine
Retailer Natural Grocers‘ introduction of organic wine was recently featured in SevenFifty Daily. We proudly count Natural Grocers as a key retail partner in Oregon and Colorado, with stores opening soon in Oklahoma. Natural Grocers carries only wines that at a minimum are made with 100% third-party certified organic grapes, along with No Sulfites Added Certified Organic wines and Biodynamic wines.
At Natural Merchants we believe consumers deserve to know what’s in their wine and that’s why we’re dedicated to a rigorous third-party certification program that is truly the gold standard in the organic wine industry. Each vineyard we work with is certified by a third-party organic certifier in that country who works under the same guidelines and labeling requirements as the USDA’s National Organic Standards Program. Many are also produced within a Biodynamic system of agriculture and are Demeter Biodynamic certified. We proudly work with winery partners who take the time, effort and expense to certify their wines, and we fully support the mirrored commitment of Natural Grocers.
Read more below from SevenFifty, and find the original blog here: daily.sevenfifty.com/natural-grocers-takes-a-chance-on-alcohol.
Natural Grocers Takes a Chance on Alcohol
Why the Western retail chain put an end to its 62-year-old alcohol embargo and started selling organic wines and craft beer
By Kevin Day for SevenFifty Daily
Founded in 1955 in Lakewood, Colorado, Natural Grocers has consistently promoted organic and sustainably raised foods as a means to better living. But despite the chain’s growth to 145 stores in the Midwest, Rocky Mountains, and Pacific Northwest, selling wine and beer had—until recently—been seen as antithetical to the company’s health-focused ethos…
“Historically, we avoided products with alcohol as an ingredient,” explains Cameron. But learning that Natural Grocers’ customers were interested in wine and other beverage alcohol products, the company decided to test the waters. “However,” Cameron says, “we had to consider how we could offer it while still meeting our company standards and philosophy.”
A Growing Interest in Natural Wine
This transition in mind-set regarding alcohol at Natural Grocers coincided with the rise in popularity of natural wines. Making organic and biodynamic wines was increasingly becoming a priority for many producers around the world. Not only were natural wines getting better, they were also beginning to sell well.
Starting in August 2017, Natural Grocers began selling certified organic wine and craft beer at its location in Denver’s up-and-coming River North, or RiNo, Art District, where 500 natural wines are currently sold. As Natural Grocers had done with all its products, it invested significant resources in vetting the wines and demanding certifications from suppliers.
A claim of “natural” was not enough for the company. “There are many growers and producers out there who practice sustainable and healthful agriculture,” Cameron says. “But the only way we can ensure what is in the final product is to require a third-party certification that holds producers and growers to specific standards.”
For a wine to be included in the Natural Grocers program, the grapes must be third-party-certified as organic, or the wine must be USDA Certified Organic (or equivalent) or Demeter-certified biodynamic. Additionally, the producer has to provide proof that the wine complies as non-GMO.
For Kemper Isely, Natural Grocers’ copresident, these standards are consistent with what customers have come to expect from the brand. “Every product we sell meets rigorous quality standards,” he says. “Customers can trust that we’ve done our homework to source only the highest-quality wine to their neighborhood store, and we believe they won’t find this anywhere else.” The new product strategy is paying off. In the last 90 days alone, Cameron reports that Natural Grocers has sold more than 9,000 bottles and boxes of organic wine across all its stores…
The new program creates a unique opportunity to showcase and elevate the awareness of natural wines in a grocery store setting…
Edward Field, the owner of Natural Merchants, an importer of certified organic wines with offices in Cartagena, Spain, and Grants Pass, Oregon, who also works with Natural Grocers, insists that the need for certification outweighs any inconvenience to the producer. “What a third-party certification does is it actually has someone come to the winery and verify what’s going on,” Field says. “I would love to believe what my local wine shop told me about a wine.” But, he says, “sales talk” on organic wines is often hearsay that gets repeated from a retailer to a customer. “The problem then becomes when the customer Googles it and finds out there is a half-truth.” Certification, he believes, functions like a guarantee, and its power will continue to grow as more consumers demand to know the origins of their wine.
Expanding the Strategy
Today, Natural Grocers has seven additional stores besides the one in Denver selling wine, beer, cider, and kombucha in Oregon, and the retailer has plans to expand the program to three locations in Oklahoma by early 2019. “The program has started off strong,” says Cameron, “and we’ve received a positive response from both customers and the natural wine industry.” He attributes much of this success to clear signage about the company’s standards but also to an enthusiastic staff who can educate consumers on the values embodied in organic and biodynamic wines…
…Cameron is optimistic that his program could affect broader change. “We would like to see more retailers and restaurants demand certification, as that helps make the costs and workload associated with certification more economically viable, especially for small producers,” he says. “We firmly believe in the benefits to regenerative and organic agriculture. The more opportunities those farmers have to sell their products, the better both for them and for the environment.”
Kevin Day is a wine writer and photographer based in Colorado and the founder of the wine website Opening a Bottle. He is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and the Wine Scholars Guild; he is currently pursuing a certification as an Italian Wine Scholar. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @openingabottle.
SevenFifty is an online platform for the beverage alcohol trade; SevenFifty Daily is an online magazine published by SevenFifty for professionals in the industry.
Wines in the Natural Merchants portfolio from these fine family winery partners can be found at Natural Grocers stores that sell wine. Look for the Natural Merchants logo on the back of every bottle:
Chile-Koyle Family Vineyards
Italy-Fattoria di Romignano