Food & Bev

Why Patagonia is making wine (and beer and chili and hot sauce and more)

Birgit Cameron, who heads up Patagonia Provisions, tells us more about how the food biz makes sense for the clothing company.
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Patagonia (Photographer: Amy Kumler)

· 4 min read

In case you missed it, Patagonia makes wine now.

Actually, the outdoor clothing and gear company has been in the food biz since 2012, when it introduced Patagonia Provisions. Since then, the division has ventured into anchovies, beer, chili, hot sauce, jerky, and more. So, why wine? And food, in general?

Retail Brew spoke to Birgit Cameron, who heads up Patagonia Provisions, to learn more about how it makes sense for the company.

This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

What got Patagonia into food in the first place?

So, the task given to me in 2012 was what would a food company look like for Patagonia? Basically Yvon [Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder] and I were talking about, what could we do? Let’s take the best of Patagonia, and build a food company that could really bring to light what we need to do around agriculture. Because if agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to the climate issues we’re facing today, we couldn’t stay away.

Patagonia, as a company, has been touching on cotton, wool, hemp, all these agricultural products for many years. Because of what we learned about food as part of this, we just felt like it was time to build out this new path forward in food.

How do you determine which products and categories to get into?

We work from a problem–solution product model, meaning identifying the problems we’re facing and finding the solutions to those problems, like regenerative agriculture or better ways of harvesting from the ocean. Then: What products can we make that really showcase that? So, for us, getting into all sorts of categories made so much sense.

So, why natural wine?

We started with beer, in 2016, to talk about regenerative perennial practices, bringing polycultures into agriculture and working with The Land Institute to create a beer. And then it felt natural to go into wine because I think it’s also a very relatable topic for people.

There are a lot of conscious consumers out there who are looking for alternatives.

How do you pick partners to work with?

The common theme is that they really are producing their wines using restorative farming practices and ancient low-intervention fermentation techniques. They’re good examples of people that are helping to rebuild damaged topsoil and restore the vitals habitats in their areas and draw down carbon, but also then incorporating these low-intervention techniques to make something interesting.

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We go in with like-minded thinkers—people that are very conscious about their footprint, how they make things, how they grow things.

We also wanted it to showcase that this is a global movement. We have people from Chile, some from Europe and New York. Japan soon...Ultimately for us, that’s collective action.

Now, why would a customer choose a wine made by Patagonia? 

If they feel that they want to go outside the box a little bit, then we’re the place, I think, to come to for that. And if they care about the practices of how wine is made, how grapes are grown, or the agricultural side of it, that’s key. The practices of how the ingredients are grown are really critical.

The more conscious customers are open to looking for organic labels and regenerative practices.

What do the demographics for Patagonia Provisions look like? Are they similar to apparel?

We have a little bit of a younger demographic with the food. So we’re seeing new people come into the movement, through our food, and that’s interesting. There’s definitely a following from Patagonia, the apparel side. And then there’s that food touches everyone, right? We all have to eat three times a day.

How do you spread the word to consumers that Patagonia has a food division? 

We’re constantly growing our community. We have a website that’s separate from Patagonia—that’s where you can find the food and the wines. It’s also where we have a lot of content on why we do what we do and why we’ve chosen to go down this path.

There’s a big education component to what we do. We really feel like that’s the thing. People need to learn about it, understand it, and go down the road of why things should be grown or made the way that we’re saying that they should.

It’s a growing movement, though. I feel very hopeful that, especially coming out of the pandemic, people are far more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies. This focus on health, I think it’s just going to continue.

What’s next for Patagonia Provisions? We have six new wines coming soon, and some ciders. We have sake. We’ve expanded Patagonia Provisions into Japan over the last few years, and that’s gone really well. We sell our beer there too.

As for additional plans, we are definitely looking at expansion wherever we have a Patagonia footprint.

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Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.