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Pronghorn pushes for Black equality in spirits

Inclusive initiative Pronghorn and the Distilled Spirits Council of the US (Discus) have teamed up to create more hiring opportunities for Black Americans in leading supply companies.

L-r: Erin Harris, Pronghorn co-founder; Dia Simms, Pronghorn co-founder; and Debra Crew, president, Diageo North America (photo credit: Lukasz Suski)

Pronghorn is a company dedicated to helping the next generation of Black entrepreneurs, executive leaders and founders in the spirits industry.

The 10-year initiative was co-founded by industry experts Dia Simms and Erin Harris, and Johnnie Walker owner Diageo in 2021.

Research by Pronghorn showed Black Americans account for 12% of alcohol consumers across categories, but comprise 7.8% of the sector’s employees and 2% of executives in the industry.

To help close the gap, Pronghorn is working to encourage suppliers, distributors and retailers to commit to filling 1,800 roles in the industry over the next decade, supported by Discus and its members.

Co-founder Simms commented: “With this first of its kind, industry-wide initiative, Pronghorn and Discus will correct the imbalance of underrepresented groups to reflect the market we serve.

“We are focused on granting access and removing barriers that have put Black people and other communities of colour at a disadvantage when it comes to ownership, investing or just working within the spirits industry in general.”

The initiative between Pronghorn and Discus will identify qualified candidates from the Black community to fill positions ranging from internships to executive-level roles across the spirits sector.

Vacancies will be posted on, and the career pages of participating spirits suppliers.

Chris Swonger, president and CEO, Discus and, noted: “In addition to working hand in hand with Pronghorn to achieve equal representation for the Black community, Discus has developed educational content, available through the Discus academy, which provides resources and tools to further advance potential talent.

“We are stronger together and will continue to support Pronghorn’s diversity initiatives by keeping pace with the rapid changes in the marketplace.”

Co-founder Diageo North America’s involvement in Pronghorn includes US$10 million in permanent endowments across 25 historically Black colleges and universities in the US, and awarding grants in key cities to help hospitality businesses adjust to Covid-19 requirements.

Debra Crew, president, Diageo North America, added: “We are committed to driving greater diversity in the spirits industry to help change the complexion of the beverage alcohol industry.

“As founding partners of Pronghorn, we are proud to contribute to the development of Black entrepreneurs and new brands, and it’s exciting to see investments and partnerships like these coming to fruition.”

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