12 oz. Curls: World’s first non-profit beer company coming to Iowa, will donate profits to the Food Bank of Iowa

Finnegans Blonde Ale
Finnegans Blonde Ale will start being distributed in Iowa in early March. Profits from its sales in Iowa will go to the food bank. — image courtesy of Finnegans Beer Company

The world’s first non-profit brewery, which donates its profits to buy fresh local produce for food banks, will soon expand its distribution and charitable mission to Iowa. FINNEGANS, based in Minneapolis, has partnered with the Food Bank of Iowa to turn its profit in the Hawkeye State into fresh, locally-grown produce available at food banks across the state.

Jacquie Berglund, the C.E.O. at FINNEGANS, says she expects the company’s two, year-round beers — FINNEGANS Irish Amber and FINNEGANS Blonde Ale — will be available in Iowa around March 1.

Berglund said FINNEGANS plans to use the same charitable model in Iowa as it does in Minnesota by distributing donations using a scaled-giving model. FINNEGANS will donate all of its profit in Iowa to the Food Bank of Iowa, which will distribute the money throughout the state. The amount donated in each distribution market will reflect the amount of sales in each market. Berglund said the Food Bank of Iowa, which serves 55 counties, will work with the Food Shelf Association network to reach out to areas the Food Bank does not serve.

Christina Zink, the communications manager at the Food Bank of Iowa, said the Food Bank is eager to work with FINNEGANS. She said the Food Bank distributed 817,943 pounds of produce in its 2014 fiscal year and hopes to donate a lot more through the partnership.

The Food Bank of Iowa received 11 million pounds of food in fiscal year 2014 and distributed just shy of that same amount — a 17 percent increase in distribution from 2013. Zink said that one in eight Iowans are food insecure, which means they do not have enough food for their next meal or do not know where their next meal will come from. One in five children in Iowa do not have enough food to eat, and 400,000 Iowans live at or below the poverty level, a factor that leads to food insecurity.

FINNEGANS started in 2000 as a charitable organization for four Irish pubs in the Twin Cities. Berglund said the idea was to combine the pubs’ charitable mission with their daily business: selling beer. The pubs sold what was then known as Kieran’s Irish Ale — named for their owner — and donated all the beer’s profit back to the community. According to Berglund, FINNEGANS was the first beer company to donate 100 percent of its profits. A few others have opened since, she said, including Two Fingers Brewing in the UK, which donates its profits to prostate cancer research. After 10 years of giving small grants to charities that dealt with poverty, FINNEGANS began to focus on food banks in 2011.

According to Berglund, FINNEGANS has donated over half a million dollars to local communities. In 2014, FINNEGANS donated over 70,000 pounds of produce in Minnesota. Though Berglund said it is “super hard to estimate first year sales in a brand new market and to make that market profitable in the first year,” she hopes that FINNEGANS will be able to donate “somewhere in the 1,000-dollar mark” in its first year in Iowa.

Berglund said FINNEGANS’ expansion to Iowa makes sense given the Midwestern roots and cultural similarities between the states. FINNEGANS’ beers, which are contract brewed by the Summit Brewing Company, are also available in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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