Minneapolis Distillery Lands Distribution Deal with Delta Air Lines
Chris Montana, owner of Du Nord Social Spirits in Minneapolis Photo by Ken Friberg

Minneapolis Distillery Lands Distribution Deal with Delta Air Lines

Starting Oct. 1, the airline will begin selling vodka from Du Nord Social Spirits, the first Black-owned distillery in the nation.

A new deal with Delta Air Lines is slated to put a small Minnesota distillery on the map around the world.

Minneapolis-based Du Nord Social Spirits this week announced that its Foundation Vodka will be available on domestic Delta flights starting Oct. 1. By 2022, Delta plans to sell other Du Nord products onboard and make the distillery’s spirits available on international flights. Du Nord owner Chris Montana said the deal is the “largest partnership we have ever had,” and also something of a rarity among craft alcohol producers.

“To put it in context, this is arguably the largest partner that any craft producer has ever had,” Montana said. “These kind of opportunities don’t go to to craft producers. … We can’t offer what the big guys can offer. We don’t have economies of scale, and we don’t have the distribution.”

Indeed, when Delta first reached out to Du Nord in summer 2020, the distillery certainly wasn’t ready for production on a global scale. “We weren’t even producing alcohol at that point,” Montana said. Like other alcohol producers, the company temporarily flipped to hand sanitizer production in the early days of the pandemic.

“We were kind of in a tailspin,” Montana said. “We were reeling from the unrest post-George Floyd, Covid, and everything else.”

But Delta Air Lines was willing to work with Du Nord, the first Black-owned distillery in the nation. A small team of just nine, Du Nord doesn’t have the capacity for large-scale production. But the airline helped Du Nord secure distribution partners in every state, Montana said. Delta also helped line up a partnership with Jack Daniels, which will bottle Du Nord’s products.

It’s not yet certain exactly how much product Du Nord will supply for Delta. Montana said he “can’t say the exact volume, but it is high volume.” He noted that Delta typically moves through “millions” of 50 mL alcohol bottles a year.

50 mL bottle of Du Nord's Foundation Vodka
A portion of Vodka Foundation sales will go toward Du Nord’s nonprofit arm

But for Montana, the Delta deal is more than a business partnership. He noted that a portion of Foundation Vodka sales will go toward the distillery’s nonprofit arm, the Du Nord Foundation, which was founded in 2020 to address racial inequalities.

“One of the reasons I think Delta was interested in this partnership is because we’re not just a brand out there to put booze in people’s glasses,” Montana said. “We also are trying to go a little bit beyond that and use funds to support our foundation.”

In a statement, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said that “doing business with diverse suppliers makes sense and is a core element of our growth strategy.” Last month, the airline pledged to double its spending with Black-owned businesses by 2025.

Since it launched, the Du Nord Foundation has been working to help Twin Cities businesses rebuild in the wake of civil unrest last summer. Du Nord’s own facility in south Minneapolis was badly damaged at the time. The distillery’s story drew attention locally and nationally.

Montana said that his company has always had an equity-focused bent.

“We’ve always been working on these things in the background, and now we’re just going to be a little louder about it,” he said.