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Interview of the month Rating:3

Imagen Spirits with social sense

Spirits with social sense

Coctelería Creativa

Interview to FAIR creators, Jean-François Daniel and Alexandre Koiransky (the answers were provided by Jean-François and this is the original version, in English).

Jean-Francois Daniel (29) and Alexandre Koiransky (30) co-founded FAIR, the world’s first Fair Trade Certified™ Spirits. The company has found that small independent farmers from some areas of Bolivia, Tibet and Mexico, among others, had much to bring to the Premium spirits industry.
By definition, according to Wikipedia, Fairtrade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries to make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. So the aim of these two men –who have known each other a while ago as they have worked together for a cognac brand in the US-, was to create a company with social responsibility, which follows and promotes those basic concepts of the fair trade.

They have developed 3 products so far described by them as follows:

  1. FAIR Quinoa is a Quinoa-based 80-proof vodka. This one of a kind spirit is the result of a two-year joint research by French distillers and a community of 1200 independent small-scale farmers who cultivate the Quinoa superfood at 16,000 ft in the Bolivian Andean Mountains. It works amazingly well as a white whiskey base in a cocktail because of its wonderful weight, flavor and texture.
  2. FAIR Goji is a liqueur made from the sacred Himalayan Goji berries, one of the most nutritious fruits on earth. Sourced from a cooperative of 300 monks in Tibet, it offers totally new fresh flavors and an extraordinary nurturing vitality. Works amazingly well with a myriad of spirits in cocktails -- rum, pisco, tequila, whiskey and cachaça are great examples.
  3. FAIR Café is a liqueur made from 100% Fair Trade Certified™ Arabica coffee beans from a collective of 1908 small independent farmers of the region of Huatusco, Mexico.


What was your main motivation to create a fair trade project and to use grains like the quinoa and fruits like the goji berries?
We were first looking to ally a new business creation with social responsibility. We believe that making the world a better place is efficient when we are re-thinking with integrity our business models. We chose the spirits industry because we had some years of experience in the sales and marketing field and then starting a company sounded like really the best way to innovate freely and project your dreams into the reality. The fair trade concept was making total sense for us and we wondered why it had not arrived yet in the alcohol segment while more than 300 categories of products have already been moving toward fair trade. When you buy a bottle of vodka for example, you have to remember that it is grain and water. By extension, any alcohol brand you see on the shelves has had to buy crops at some point to somebody in order to produce their alcohol and we thought “What do we know about it?”, “Not much in reality”. We focused on this essential idea to start FAIR. The content of spirit is crops and we started to re-think supply chains from the farm where people actually produce of the bottling plant where you assemble your product. 
All the ingredients we source from our farmers are fairtrade certified™ and comply with organic farming methods. Each spirits we craft is the result of a partnership between a co-op of farmers and a distiller. 
While we are making excellent spirits, our products also impact thousands of lives around the world. We make sure that consumers have the opportunity to make much better decisions in a very easy way.

How was the creation of the project and the decision to work together?
We talked about this project throughout 2008 while Alex was already working on the business plan and while I was out traveling around the world meeting with farmers. When we got together in Paris in the fall 2008 we discussed more in depth about the business plan and we got to the point where we started to experiment production runs with the different fairtrade certified™ ingredients we had sourced (Quinoa, Coffee, Sugar Cane, Goji berry). We created a pool of the most talented artisan distillers in Cognac to help develop the products with us and we spent almost an entire year just working on product development. When the first batch of Quinoa-based vodka came out, everybody came around to taste the incredible beverage and we were solicited right away to sell it. That is when we decided to officially launch FAIR.

How did you fund the project at the beginning?
With family and friends first and then with private investors.

How it affects you the political instability in some areas where the raw materials of some of your products are made like Bolivia?
We are a people to people type of company and we do have excellent, fluid and sustainable relationship with the producers’ organization we are working with. That is the beauty of fair trade as it is a direct relationship that governments do not have any interference with. The more the farmers succeed, export and grow the local economy that wealthier these regions are. There is time to talk and time to act. We are part 2.

And locally in these areas, what effect (positive or negative) your production generates?
All the producers have a great deal of love for their soils that they commonly call “pachamama”. They cultivate their fields with tools that respect the land integrity. They do not over exploit soils with pesticides and keep a constant rotation of the parcels. They believe that a good relationship with the nature guarantees good quality and consistent harvest in the long run. It is really that we now call sustainable farming practices. However one also has to accept that yields also depend on the weather so harvest will be higher one year and lower another year. The Quinoa farmers, for example, have had consistent results over 5000 years of cultivating the same fields with the same care and they show to the world with brio that in the long run fair-trade and organic farming practices lead independent farmers’ co-op to be as competitive as industrial agricultural firms who would be tempted to over-exploit fields driven by expectation of short-term profitability.

How does the fair trade of the raw material you use affect in the final price of your products?
FAIR is significantly more expensive than any other premium brand while our cost is most likely higher. One may wonder how much money other companies spend to justify their shelf price. We want to make FAIR a model of brand that sells cases and makes money while assuming a different approach of production and cost structure. When you buy a bottle of FAIR you really buy what it really worth inside ounce by ounce.


What do the Russians think about your quinoa vodka? Do they like it? Do they drink it?
What we share with the most acclaimed Russian vodkas is the smoothness and elegance. Where our quinoa Vodka sets apart is that it comes off the still after one single distillation. Therefore it does retain more complexity and flavor. FAIR comes out better as an aperitif in a chilled stirred Cocktails and does not need loads of mixers to be appreciated.

In which markets we can find your products and which one has more output?
UK / FRANCE / USA = 20%-20%-60%

Is the spirits game all about marketing? Do you think that the fact you use unique ingredients, unknown in many markets, this entire organic boom, conscious about the environment both nature and social is a new trend in the beverage sector?
FAIR is part of a lifestyle that more and more consumers are seeking to endorse and live fully. Consuming is already a powerful experience but when you are choosing to buy something that you fundamentally believe is better, you are enlightening the world. We are brand builders and the brand has a 360 marketing strategy which part of the game. It has to taste good, look good and feel good. If one is missing, you can trash your business plan.

What would you say to the bartenders to encourage them to use your products?
Bars and Restaurants are a major vehicle to make consumers aware of our concept and products. They are more and more discerning when it comes to quality in the bottle and that is the first reason why one should buy a bottle of FAIR. You also find creative people behind the bar who are constantly looking for new flavors. What comes out from FAIR is pretty exotic and gives plenty of new directions to work with cocktails. We are honored to count on the support of some of the most acclaimed cocktail bars around the globe from Experimental Cocktail Club in Paris, Drink in Boston, Founding Farmers in Washington DC, Rouge Tomate in New York, 15 Romolo in San Francisco, Perch in Los Angeles, etc. 


What creative recipes do you want to share with us and with our community and why?

Goji Negroni
1.5 oz FAIR Quinoa Vodka
0.75 oz FAIR Goji Liqueur
0.75 oz Cynar
Stir to chill, strain into chilled coupette glass. Garnish with thick orange peel. It is a world classic revisited.

Have you visited the countries where the raw materials of some of your products are made? Malawi, Mexico, Tibet, Bolivia ... How was that experience personally and professionally?
Yes of course. We are in love with the places and the culture of the people that we work with. We recently shot two videos one in France and one in Bolivia. I encourage you to watch and post because it gives a feel for the brand origins (watch videos).

We read in an interview that your ultimate goal is to improve the lives of poor people around the world. Is this true? And now what is the next step?
Yes, it is. We have personal aspirations and company’s goals. They are interdependent. Working everyday with a feeling of hope for humanity is an immense joy and fulfillment that we have as we see our project grow. FAIR is a small but efficient contributor to justice around the world. On the other hand we are not a nonprofit but a private company that seeks profitability and the success of our endeavor comes down to sales. The more we sell bottles, the more we can invest and support families around the world. As we grow, the thousands of farmers we are currently working with FAIR will become millions. If consumers ask for better products the entire industry will have to change.

What classic cocktail do you enjoy to drink? And what classic cocktail do you suggest with some of your products?
Old Fashioned and Quinoa Old Fashioned.

Quinoa Old Fashioned:
2 oz FAIR Quinoa Vodka
0.5 oz honey syrup (1:1 ratio)*
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Orange bitters
Stir ice cold and strain into a chilled rock glass. Garnish with thick orange peel.

Picture by @ Fair SpiritsPicture by © Fair SpiritsPicture by © Fair Spirits

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