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Diversity has ‘long way to go’ in rum category

Diverse representation in the rum category is at 7% or less, according to Karen Hoskin, owner and founder of Colorado-based Montanya Distillers.

Montanya Distillers rum
Karen Hoskin (pictured) is the founder and owner of rum producer Montanya Distillers

Speaking to The Spirits Business, Hoskin shared how her rum distillery is trying to work with the community to boost diversity, but the category still has a “long way to go”, even if it appears otherwise.

“We’ve made really great progress in the last five years or so in seeing more diversity in the rum category,” Hoskin said.

“But we have a long way to go in building ownership and leadership in this industry by women and people of colour – and just diverse populations. It’s a better business when we have that.

“It’s still maybe 7% or less [representation]. And I hope to inspire the industry to be thinking about how we can do better.”

Hoskin is head of the distillers group within membership organisation Women of the Vine and Spirits (WOTVS).

The group promotes a more diverse, equitable and inclusive era that supports business development and innovation.

​”I’m starting to see some indications of making [diversity] a priority, mostly because [companies] are looking around and seeing some of the success.

“But the people who are succeeding are often doing it at great cost. I definitely see progress, I just think it’s easy to think there’s progress. When [you look at] the quantitative aspects, the actual number of [diverse] people who are majority owners or who are getting venture capital is actually still very low.”

Montanya Distillers is B Corp-certified, an accreditation awarded to firms that have met a certain standard of social impact across categories. These requirements include corporate governance, the environment, community, employees and customers.

“We have a lot of staff who come from different backgrounds, and we do a lot to really support their identities in our community,” Hoskin continued.

“Occasionally we have signage in our business that says ‘love is love’, and ‘Black lives matter’. And quite often, we have people walk by or walk up to the door and say, ‘oh, let’s not go in there’ because of that.

“But it’s worth it to us to take a strong position about what we believe is morally correct.

“For us, if we’re going to make money and produce a product, we want to be part of a regenerative economy; regenerating the community around us that we want to represent. So it’s not about making money and being capitalistic on the backs of of our community, but really being part of a regenerative economy.”

In October, Montanya Distillers completed a ‘substantial’ distillery expansion that will increase its current capacity tenfold.

For a full in-depth interview with Hoskin, see the January 2023 edition of The Spirits Business magazine.

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