Interest in organic spirits is increasing, translating into a slow but noticeable growth in sales. Unlike conventional spirits, organic spirits are made with certified organic and non-GMO ingredients.
Lorien Schramm, manager of Product Development, Sales, Marketing and Events for B.C.’s Pemberton Distillery, says the differences in production between organic and conventional spirits doesn’t amount to a significant difference in taste. “The ethos for us, in choosing to be certified organic, goes beyond the final product and takes into account that the actual making of our product is cleaner and lighter on the earth,” says Schramm. Pemberton Distillery produces vodka, whisky, gin, liqueurs and other spirits — all of which are certified organic by the Vernon, B.C.-based Pacific Agricultural Certification Society. The Schramm Organic Gin, which retails for $45 for 750mL, is its best-seller. “When we started the distillery 10 years ago, being certified organic didn’t have much perceived difference,” says Schramm. “Every year, we notice more customers are seeking out our spirits specifically because they’re organic.”
According to LCBO statistics, sales of organic spirits have grown 18.5 per cent over the last three years. Courtney Dawson, LCBO category manager for white spirits, RTD and accessories, says organic spirits only represent a small portion of business overall, generating more than $257,000 in net sales between July 2017 and July 2018.
Although small, the consistent yearly increase in organic-spirit sales is great news for producers such as King’s Lock Craft Distillery, a Johnstown, Ont.-based operation that makes four of the eight organic spirits currently available online at the LCBO (four additional organic spirits are available through the LCBO’s Products of the World specialty boutiques). King’s Lock’s 1000 Islands Moonshine, Prescott White Rye, Von Schoultz Vodka and Conestoga Gin all sell for $43.90 at the LCBO.
The brand’s owner, Rob Heuvel, says the cost of ingredients is the most challenging aspect of producing spirits organically. “There’s a price curve there that some people do find hard,” says Heuvel. “The higher production expenses mean organic spirits typically come with a larger price tag than their conventional counterparts.”
Shelley Stinson, owner of South Branch Bistro in Kemptville, Ont. — one of five restaurants that carry spirits from King’s Lock — says the cost of organic spirits can be a sticking point for customers. “It’s very clean tasting.” Stinson says of King’s Lock’s Prescott White Rye. “The reason it doesn’t fly off the shelf is price.”
The steady upward trend in organic-spirits sales at the LCBO, however, indicates a growing number of consumers are willing to pay more to support organic distillers. “More people are interested in impacts on the environment and are drawn to producers who make conscious and deliberate choices to help support environmental protection,” says Heuvel.
Written by Jessica Huras