Minneapolis-based Du Nord Social Spirits recently announced that it will partner with Delta Air Lines as an in-flight beverage supplier.
The last several years have brought phenomenal change for everyone. When the pandemic hit in 2020, Du Nord Social Spirits owner, Chris Montana, wasn’t sure the business would survive. The company had to shut down their Cocktail Room, and both on-premise and off-premise sales took a dive. They pivoted to producing hand sanitizer and donated over $250,000 worth of hand sanitizer to childcare centers throughout Minnesota, most of which could not afford to purchase themselves due to financial strain.
In the days after George Floyd was murdered, one of Du Nord’s buildings was damaged in a fire. A GoFundMe raised nearly $1 million from over 12,000 people all over the world. Du Nord stepped into the moment and chose to make an opportunity from the crisis. Not merely for themselves, but for those around them and others they haven’t met yet. Du Nord owners Chris and Shanelle Montana took 100% of that money and formed the Du Nord Foundation and opened their doors to organizations and entrepreneurs displaced by the upheaval in the community. They leaned into doing what they could, and in that, they found themselves motivated to do more, both in business and in impact.
Amid the uncertainty and unrest of the summer of 2020, Delta reached out to ask if Du Nord would like to talk about supplying them. The Montanas recognized here, an even bigger opportunity to make good and do good. Delta was looking to do something different with their beverage program and had heard about Du Nord’s award-winning products. As Chris Montana, recalls, “When Delta first reached out to us about this, it was nowhere near possible for us to do any of the things they were talking about. We had to envision a future where we were back on our feet, then able to do what they needed.”
Montana credits Delta with being both patient and willing to do things differently. The opportunity for a small distillery based in Minnesota to work with one of the biggest companies in the world was a huge step and was going to require extra support from Delta for Du Nord to scale to meet the demand. As Montana sees it, “Had they been working with a large company, certain things would have already been there. Distribution to their various hubs would have already been there. A program for this type of packaging in scale would have already been there. The cost structure of a fully-scaled company would have already been there.” Over the next year and a half, Du Nord and Delta met weekly to build the knowledge and readiness needed to launch. Delta agreed to stagger the launch of additional products and international route supply, to give Du Nord time to build. Delta is committed to diversifying its supplier base and “to serve products that are made by people who reflect the world we live in.”
“Delta’s growth is tied to our customer base, and our fastest growing markets include minorities, women, and international travelers,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian in a press release. Doing business with diverse suppliers makes sense and is a core element of our growth strategy.”
When Chris & Shanelle Montana first started Du Nord Social Spirits, they began by making classic spirits in ways deeply true to what they were supposed to be, making sure that flavor and nuance remain at center stage. Recently, they changed the company name to Du Nord Social Spirits. Social in manner and mission, because they know magic happens when we work together, not alone. Social because Du Nord is here for those who raise a glass and share the bottle. As Montana said, “Although on paper, we get and fill orders, we call this a partnership because Delta is making it possible for one of the smallest companies in the country to work with one of the largest.”
Starting October, Du Nord Foundation Vodka will be served on domestic Delta flights as an onboard beverage option. This spirit is smooth and easy to drink, whether on its own or mixed. In 2022, Delta will bring on more Du Nord products and plans to launch the spirits internationally. Du Nord plans to contribute a portion of sales to the Du Nord Foundation.