Advancing diversity and equal representation in the spirits industry across North America

22 Feb 2023

It’s been two years since Diageo North America became an anchor investor in Pronghorn, a standalone business venture embarking on a journey to cultivate the next generation of Black entrepreneurs, executive leaders, and founders within the spirits industry.

While Black Americans represent 12% of consumers across the U.S. beverage alcohol category, this group is underrepresented within the industry from employment and ownership perspectives. To help address these disparities, Diageo has also provided a wide range of resources and expertise to bolster Pronghorn’s investments in route-to-market strategies, trade and brand marketing, supply chain and manufacturing, among other disciplines.

“Pronghorn is making a remarkable impact to transform the make-up of the industry through their investments and programming,” said Stephanie Childs, Executive Vice President of Corporate Relations for Diageo North America. “We are committed to doing our part to help ensure Pronghorn continues to thrive, creating opportunities for Black entrepreneurs and business leaders.”

As we honor Black Heritage Month at Diageo North America, we are inspired by the progress Pronghorn has made to address barriers and empower untapped talent and emerging Black businesses to reach their full potential. These are some of the key highlights since its inception:

  • Investing in Black businesses: this past year, Pronghorn has invested in 12 Black-owned brands, allowing entrepreneurs to grow and sustain their businesses in the years to come. These investments include Ten to One Rum, Tequila with Friends (TWF), Ego Tequila, Den of Thieves Whiskey, Hella Cocktails Co., Anteel Tequila, Common Ground Spirits, Delta Dirt Distillery and Old Hillside Bourbon Company.
  • Mentoring entrepreneurs: As part of the ‘supercharging program’ a team of industry experts have been deployed to work with each founder to identify the primary areas of opportunity for their business to grow and provide a blueprint to help them achieve their business goals. Eight brands have now completed the program.
  • Hiring talented professionals: In partnership with trade associations, Pronghorn has secured more than 900 hiring commitments from suppliers across the industry. It is also engaging with wholesalers and retailers to support its goal of placing 1,800 Black Americans in roles across the spirits industry over the next 10 years.
  • Training future leaders: Launched the Pronghorn Spirits Academy Internship Program for students ages +21 interested in careers within the spirits industry. Participants engage in structured coaching, networking and mentoring sessions while honing business skills critical for advancement in consumer goods. After a successful inaugural program in 2022, applications have been accepted for the summer of 2023.

This month, Diageo hosted several events, including a special edition of its ‘Fireside with Founders’ series spotlighting Pronghorn and Rikki Kelly, founder of Ego Tequila, the first Black woman owned tequila brand to originate out of the state of Texas.

“I am proud of the unique opportunity we have at Diageo to help diversify the spirits industry ecosystem through our work with Pronghorn and its disruptive and sustainable approach to produce long-term impact beyond the industry, in the Black community and culture,” said Malcolm Ellis, Pronghorn lead and Co-Chair of the A.H.E.A.D. Business Resource Group at Diageo North America.

The company’s commitment to shape a more diverse and equitable world is core to its Society 2030 ambition. Pronghorn is part of a broader commitment within Diageo North America supporting diverse communities and equal representation that includes:

  • $10 million in permanent endowments across 25 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the U.S.;
  • Joining a consortium of leaders across HBCUs, corporations and research organizations to advance sustainable growth opportunities for these institutions and cultivate a pipeline of future-ready talent;
  • Advocating for positive policies through the Congressional HBCU Partnership Challenge; and
  • Providing employability skills and hospitality training in underrepresented communities through Diageo’s ‘Learning Skills for Life’ program.

More information on Diageo’s ‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ commitment to championing inclusion and diversity. To learn more about Pronghorn and its goal to generate $2.4 billion in economic value for the Black community by 2032 here.