This article was originally published in May 2018
Frontier Co-op was founded in 1976 by Rick Stewart, a delivery truck driver working for a regional co-op warehouse in Iowa City. Along his delivery route Rick found that store after store wanted dried herbs and spices but the co-op he worked for couldn’t take on the labor-intensive repackaging operations required for these items. So, Rick bought some large containers of herbs and spices himself and started repackaging them in the living room of his small cabin on the Cedar River. Soon, Rick began shipping his herbs and spices — first in the Midwest and then nationally — growing to become a major supplier in the natural products industry.
Frontier has operated as a member-owned cooperative for more than 40 years, dedicated to supporting and advocating values of the co-op community. As a co-op, member-owners help to guide the company with values of “integrity and responsibility.”
“Our early management envisioned a workplace where employees would enjoy their work, families would come first, the quality of products would be unsurpassed, organics would play a key role in the business, and social responsibility would be inseparable from their actions,” says Frontier CEO Tony Bedard.
Frontier Co-op members receive a portion of the company’s profit each year, based on purchases. Some of this refund is paid out as cash, while another portion remains invested in the co-op, providing capital to expand the company. This retained portion is paid back out later to members.
Frontier Co-op was one of the first suppliers to advocate organic products and organic agriculture, becoming a certified organic processor as soon as that program was available. “We feel organic agriculture is crucial to a safe and sustainable international food supply and that the basic values of organic agriculture — concern for people and the environment — are key to the well-being of us all,” notes Tony. Today, Frontier provides organic herbs, spices and teas offered in PCC stores.
Frontier’s “Well Earth Sustainable Sourcing Program” promotes the production of organic products, creating worldwide partnerships built on respect for quality and social responsibility. Frontier Co-op also helped launch the Fair Trade Spice category and was the first U.S. company to offer Fair Trade Certified™ spices.
Like many co-ops, Frontier actively supports its workforce with subsidized on-site childcare and a subsidized organic employee cafeteria. In addition to comprehensive traditional benefits, Frontier ensures opportunities for employees to participate in company decision-making processes. We love selling Frontier products in our stores!