Frontier Co-op began as a two-person operation in 1976 in a river cabin in Eastern Iowa. Since then, they’ve grown steadily to become a major supplier of natural products. Their success throughout the years reflects their close harmony with the product needs and the values of their members and natural products consumers.
Frontier Co-op is fully committed to the health and welfare of the environment and all the people involved with producing and consuming their botanical products.
Company representatives meet personally with growers whenever possible and create partnerships built upon mutual respect for quality botanicals and sound social and environmental practices. Their Well Earth sustainable sourcing program is built on the expertise they’ve gained from over three decades of experience buying botanicals from all over the world. The direct relationships of Well Earth allows them to develop effective and meaningful social giving projects for their grower communities.
The Company Prairie
In the spring of 1992, employee volunteers planted 21 acres of tallgrass prairie at their Norway, Iowa, headquarters on land that was previously corn and bean fields. The prairie, which contains dozens of species of grasses and forbs, later became part of the United Plant Savers Botanical Sanctuary Network, a group of environments dedicated to restoring and preserving natural habitats and native plants.
In order to ensure quality in their products, they set high quality specifications and buy direct from responsible, sustainable sources – certified organic whenever possible. They handle product carefully from receiving to shipping to maintain quality and do extensive product testing to guarantee safe, high-quality products. You can trust these products. The company has the skills resources necessary to find and buy top botanical products from around the world and to make sure that those products have no adulteration, fillers or questionable ingredients. And they never make false or empty claims about their products. They always search for the best-tasting spices and most pure oils. They have 100% ingredient disclosure and formulate their products as naturally as possible.
Quality begins with skillful, knowledgeable buyers traveling the world and forming meaningful relationships with growers and sources committed to quality themselves and long-term partnerships. They know the decisions that they make at the sources of their products directly impact how good their products are on the shelf. They work with their sourcing partners to get those first decisions right – buying flat-leaf parsley for its superior flavor, lovingly grown rosemary, and Ceylon cinnamon that is specially handled for purity and high oil content, for example. Whenever possible, they support growers expanding their organic agricultural production, both with secure long-term contracts and by funding their expansion into more products as they did with Pacific Northwest herb grower Aromatics. And they maintain stable, quality sources for their products by building long-term sourcing partnerships and improving the lives of their growers, their communities and the environment.
Once herbs and spices arrive at Frontier, every aspect of their handling is done with quality in mind:
- Climate controlled storage (70 degrees Fahrenheit and 60% relative humidity) to preserve freshness and chemically active plant constituents
- Strict sanitation rules enforced through regular inspections by Quality Assurance
- Product handling, processing and packaging systems set up to maximize the quality of the final product
- Exposure to moisture and heat minimized at all times
- Grinding of spices and herbs is done cryogenically at temperatures below -20 degrees Fahrenheit
- They use a sophisticated computerized inventory system that allows any herb or spice, even a minor ingredient in a blend, to be instantly located or traced back to its origin
- Herbs and spices are packaged in materials that ensure the optimum quality of a product — foil laminate pouches, glass bottles, or plastic bags double-bagged in paper
Frontier does not sell any products or use any ingredients that have been sterilized by irradiation or ethylene oxide (ETO). They utilize safe and effective steam sterilization to preserve product quality. Processes are in place to prevent allergen contamination and allergens are identified on labels if present. Each of their items is freshness dated with a use-by date that ensures maximum flavor.
Frontier’s highly qualified Quality Assurance staff, a team of trained technicians led by Ravin Donald, Ph.D., tests products thoroughly upon their arrival and throughout their processing and packaging at their facility. Here are some of tests they use to ensure they’re providing you with the best natural products available:
- HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography) testing measures active constituent levels in herbs
- Microanalysis reveals cellular structure of plants to determine identity and adulteration
- Microbiological testing detects yeast, mold and bacterial pathogens
- Organoleptic testing consists of taste, smell and sight tests to determine quality and screen out adulterated product
A key safeguard of product safety is sterilization to eliminate pathogens such as Salmonella. They employ SteamSafe, a state-of-the-art steam sterilization system that allows them to offer safe, flavorful spices to their customers without using irradiation or ethylene oxide (ETO), a chemical that cannot be used on organic products.
Doing business sustainably involves measuring one’s success in terms of social and environmental responsibility as well as financial results. Frontier cares deeply about the effect it has on the world that we all live in – the people and communities that they do business with, the way that the production of their botanical products affects the environment, and the holistic health of us all.
Transparency is at the heart of true sustainability. Frontier’s publicly accessible, online Sustainability Report details their performance in seven key environmental and social areas – sourcing, products, packaging, customers, operations, employees and community and compares the results with those from past years.
Frontier’s facilities – in the four Iowa towns of Norway, Urbana, North Liberty and Belle Plaine – are sustainably managed and have been designed and retrofitted for energy efficiency. (Their remodel of their headquarters entryway, Co-op Cafe, Human Resources Department, and Research and Development Lab was awarded Silver LEED status.)
Frontier is committed to reducing their energy consumption levels and using only green energy. They offset 100% of their electrical power usage through the purchase of Green-e certified Renewable Energy Credits. They also offset carbon generated from their shipping, making the company one of the first distribution centers to provide 100% carbon neutral shipping.
Recycling and Waste Reduction
Recycling is a priority in their facility, and they have identified handlers to begin recycling components of their waste stream previously deemed non-recyclable. They have reduced paper usage significantly with a number of initiatives and almost all the paper that they use is 100% recycled content. They also use 100% post consumer waste recycled fiber boxes, soy ink printing, recycled and recyclable packaging that is sourced locally for their order distribution.
Frontier gives back 4% of annual net savings to charitable causes and improves life in communities all around the world where their products are produced. (Many of their growers live in poor rural villages in developing countries.) They are committed to doing business in a way that is positive for everyone involved with Frontier Co-op.
Frontier Co-op has a long tradition of giving back. From their earliest years, they trained farmers around the world to grow organically to protect themselves and the environment from toxic chemicals. As the company grew, they created charitable funds for each of their three brands to implement their social giving. They also give to local and value-oriented organizations, such as Feed Iowa First and Cooperative Community Funds. More than half of the company’s giving goes directly to improving life in the communities that grow their products through their Well Earth sourcing program. They boost employment and the local environment by helping maintain and develop organic sourcing partners. And these partners are often located in poor, isolated communities where they can help with basics like clean water, roads, schools and medical care. Recent projects in their sourcing communities include a dental clinic in Guatemala and a project allowing Vietnamese children to attend school.
They also support their grower partners through the socially and environmentally conscious non-profit Fair Trade. They have assisted growers in becoming Fair Trade certified, and Frontier Co-op introduced the first Fair Trade Certified spices to the U.S. market in 2009.
The Frontier Foundation is a philanthropic organization, funded primarily by their members’ uncashed patronage checks, that supports social, educational, and environmental causes. The Foundation has since given millions to a variety of charities and organizations since it was founded in 2000.
Simply Organic 1% Fund
One percent of sales on all Simply Organic products goes to the Simply Organic 1% Fund to support organic agriculture through research, education and grower development. The fund, which has provided over a million dollars of support to organic causes since it began in 2001, is having a remarkable impact both in the U.S. and internationally. Aura Cacia Positive Change Project Your Aura Cacia purchases help make the world a better place. They’ve established the Aura Cacia Positive Change Project to help women around the world positively transform their lives.
Organizations That Frontier Supports
Frontier Co-op provides regular support to organizations and causes that share their values about organics, sustainability, social justice and caring for those in need – American Herbal Products Association, Bulk Is Green Council, the Organic Trade Association, the Organic Center, United Plant Savers, the Red Cross, Alzheimer’s Association and numerous others.
Local Community Giving
In their local community, paid time off for volunteering is available to employees, and Frontier Co-op matches donations for many local causes and events through an employee-run Community Giving Team.