Proud Pour founder and co-CEO, Berlin Crystal Kelly, who has a background in brewing a variety of beverages as part of the New York City Homebrewers Guild, did not want her product to be just another beverage on the store shelf or in restaurants.
“It’s really hard to care about something if you don’t have a relationship with it,” Kelly told BeverageDaily.
“As our world is starting to become more urban and less rural, people don’t have as much of a relationship with the environment.”
Kelly realized beverages could solve that disconnection between many consumers and the issues affecting the environment.
The idea for wine came second
Proud Pour was founded in 2014. After researching local and environmental causes, Kelly settled on helping restore wild oysters’ endangered habitat having learnt that 95% of oyster reefs have been destroyed.
However, she knew that in order to gain momentum around this cause, her mission had to be tied with something consumers could easily relate to.
“I kind of backed into the idea of wine,” she said. “At the end of the day we want people to be excited about what they’re buying.”
Kelly connected with a vineyard in California to make a Sauvignon Blanc and named it “The Oyster” with a clear and direct label message that reads: “This label rebuilds oyster reefs” so consumers know exactly how their purchase is contributing to improving the environment.
The positive feedback the company received for its first wine launch spurred Kelly and her business partner to move onto its next cause while answering a consumer demand for a red wine.
Working with a vineyard in the Umpqua Valley of Oregon, Proud Pour launched a Pinot Noir with profits going to restoring habitat for the 3,600 species of bees that exist in the US today.
A bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir retails for around $19.99 and $23 to 24, respectively.
The next plan for Proud Pour is to make a beer benefitting an endangered species of turtles in North America.
Restaurants prove less of a challenge than retailers
Proud Pour wine is available in restaurants and retail stores along the East Coast in between North Carolina and Maine including major cities such as Boston, New York City, and Washington D.C.
Breaking into the wine industry has not been easy, according to Kelly, who has had a hard time getting onto store shelves.
The number of restaurants where Proud Pour wine is sold far outnumbers its retail locations, something Kelly noticed when the company first launched in New York City.
“Restaurants in New York have been really on board, where retail shops in New York have been really difficult,” she said.
“You would think that a place with more money would be more prone to a higher-priced social mission product, but they aren’t."
However, the audience the brand has attracted has been mainly socially-conscious millennials who are willing to spend more on a product that's tied to a specific cause like improving the environment.
Fostering a conversation about the environment
The company’s vision is to continue to expand its mission-based beverages to include non-alcoholic drinks as well.
“Our whole goal for this is we need everyone on board for fixing the environment,” Kelly said. “When people engage, they’re not only buying this wine but volunteering.”