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A Timeline of Frontier Co-op's History

We’ve had some fans ask us about our start…here’s a timeline with some brief highlights about milestones in our history — and we look forward to many more!

1976 Frontier begins as two-person operation. Frontier started out offering difficult-to-find herbs, spices and botanicals to local co-ops.

1978 Establish $1/hr childcare subsidy and employee lunch program. These two early employee benefits set the tone for three decades of family-friendly and innovative benefits for Frontier workers. We believe a company that creates, produces, and markets wholesome, natural foods and personal care products should also focus on workplace policies and practices that promote personal well-being.

Add first organic products to line. Frontier was an early leader in promoting organic products and the environmental and social benefits of organic agriculture. We have held that position of leadership throughout our 30-year history. We were the first to offer organic herbs and spices and first to be certified as an organic processor. We have provided ongoing support of the organic industry and organic agriculture worldwide with programs like the donation of 1% of Simply Organic sales to organic farming causes.

Buy 5,200 sq. ft. grocery store in Fairfax, Iowa, and convert into operations facility.

Begin bottling essential oils in response to store requests.

1979 Begin selling other manufacturer’s products in response to store requests.

Incorporate as cooperative owned by customers.

1980 Return first patronage refund. As a co-op, Frontier returns profits to its member/owners in the form of patronage refunds. Since the first check was sent out in March 1980, Frontier has returned almost $7 million dollars to members.

Implement computerized order systems.

1981 Elect Frontier’s first Board of Directors.

1982 Purchase 10 acres near Norway, Iowa and build 22,152 sq. ft. facility.

1983 Frontier listed 78th on Inc. magazine’s list of “America’s Fastest Growing Companies.”

Establish subsidized on-site childcare and cafeteria.

Produce 135-page Herb & Spice handbook.

1984 Expand Norway facilities to 31,992 sq. ft.

Change by-laws to allow non-co-operative stores to be Frontier members.

1985 Purchase first personal computers.

1986 Become first herb and spice manufacturer with certified organic processing.

1988 Introduce line of packaged spices in response to consumer demand.

Purchase additional 46 acres adjoining Norway site and expand facilities to 37,824 sq. ft.

1989 Introduce CO2 fumigation. Frontier was the first in the Natural Products Industry to use a natural CO2 process to control infestation in herbs and spices. This natural process allows us to avoid the use of chemical fumigants and provide greater purity in our products.

Expand Norway facilities to 57,360 sq. ft.

1990 Start Frontier Research Farm for testing and developing methods of organic agriculture.

Launch line of bottled spices.

1991 Introduce line of herbal extracts.

Introduce Frontier Coffee, a line of gourmet, 100% organic coffee.

1992 Re-establish tall grass prairie on 21 acres of Norway site.

Introduce cryogenic grinding to preserve product quality in processing.

Begin selling Frontier products through natural food distributors.

Host first Herbfest. * Frontier hosted 13 HerbFest conferences. HerbFest was the country’s largest annual conference on herbs and sustainable living, drawing as many as 1,425 participants each August to the Frontier site in Norway, Iowa. Recognized experts from around the country and the world led hundreds of seminars on natural living that were attended by people from all over the United States.

Frontier CEO Rick Stewart receives Iowa Small Business Person of the Year Award.

1993 Create botanical garden at Norway site.

Working Mother magazine picks Frontier as one of the “100 Best Companies in America for Working Mothers.”

Introduce organic Frontier beer.

Expand Norway facilities to 86,076 sq. ft.

1994 Working Mother magazine again picks Frontier as one of the “100 Best Companies in America for Working Mothers.”

Establish Frontier Coffee social programs.

Build coffee roasting facility in Urbana, Iowa.

Buy Aura Cacia Aromatherapy brand.

1995 Launch first line of certified organic essential oils. Another example of organic leadership, with Frontier using the expertise gained in sourcing organic herbs and spices to bring the first organic line of essential oils to the marketplace. Just as Frontier’s early promotion of organic botanicals helped create the market for organics, this cutting-edge move into organic essential oils set new standards and built support for organic growth in aromatherapy.

Launch first Frontier web site.

Distill basil essential oil in conjunction with Purdue University.

For the third consecutive year, Working Mother magazine picks Frontier as one of the “100 Best Companies in America for Working Mothers.”

1996 Establish Goldenseal Project. The Goldenseal Project was created by Frontier to encourage the development of cultivated sources of goldenseal to counteract overharvesting of the plant’s native populations.

Aura Cacia begins in-house gas chromatography testing program. The expansion of Frontier’s in-house quality testing program to include gas chromatography testing for all oils allowed us to achieve a new level of control and make a truly meaningful guarantee of quality and purity. Our industry-leading quality-testing program with GC allows us to determine the chemical composition of oils to a greater degree of accuracy than other methods allow.

1997 Move marketing office to Boulder, Colorado.

1998 Frontier given “Socially Responsible Business Award” by Natural Products Expo.

Create herb preserve and research farm in Meigs County, Ohio. Frontier purchased 68 acres in the Appalachian region of Ohio and founded the National Center for the Preservation of Medicinal Herbs (NCPMH) to preserve native populations of at-risk herbs and research methods of cultivating them to counter the effects of over-harvesting.

1999 Founder and CEO Rick Stewart retires.

Expand Norway facilities to present total of 115,248 sq. ft.

2000 Hire Steve Hughes as CEO.

2001 Sell Frontier Coffee to Green Mountain Coffee.

2002 Donate NCPMH to Rural Action.

Organic certification regulations go into effect; Frontier already in full compliance.

Introduce Simply Organic, 100% organic line of spices, seasonings, flavors, mixes and boxed dinners. The Simply Organic brand is Frontier’s most ambitious effort to date to increasing the reach of organics with affordable, convenient culinary products that fit the modern lifestyle.

Eliminate share money requirement for members.

CEO Steve Hughes resigns. Board creates committee to assume day-to-day operational control and rehires previous key managers. Return executive and management functions to Norway, Iowa.

2003 Hire Tony Bedard as CEO.Move Aura Cacia to former coffee facility in Urbana, Iowa.

Sell boxed dinner portion of Simply Organic to Annie’s.

2004 Adopt mission statement “To convert the world to natural and organic products.”

Begin offering Fair Trade teas. Fair Trade certification ensures standards are met for wages, living conditions and working conditions for tea pickers.Establish Frontier wholesale web site with online ordering. As we steadily expand and enhance our online service, we expect it to grow in importance to our customers. Over $2 million of sales have been placed on the wholesale site since it went online in September 2004.

Achieve record sales and profitability.

2005 Establish Well Earth program to develop high quality and socially responsible suppliers around the world. Frontier’s Well Earth program was created to proactively find and develop high-quality and socially responsible organic suppliers around the world and partner with them in producing products and implementing social programs. Our first Well Earth partner is an Indian vanilla supplier that offers workers unusually good job opportunities and pay and contributes to feeding disadvantaged schoolchildren throughout India. Well Earth is a valuable tool in providing our customers with products of the very highest quality and integrity.

Establish Aura Cacia’s Online Aromatherapy retailer training.

$43.4 million in sales leads to record year in sales and profitability.

Achieve new records in market share for aromatherapy and spice products.

2006 Celebrate 30th anniversary!

2010 Implement steam sterilization to naturally eliminate pathogens while maintaining product flavor and aroma.

Purchase and renovate 100,000 sq. ft. facility in North Liberty.

Aura Cacia Organic 1% Fund builds a preschool in Madagascar for supplier community children.

With Simply Organic 1% Fund, the Well Earth program builds 49 new wells in the communities supplying our vanilla.

Chosen as the 2013 Whole Foods Supplier of the Year.

Provide 300 dormitory-style bunk beds and school subsidize so Vietnamese children can attend school.

Launch first Non-GMO Project Verified products, including the first Non-GMO Verified vanillas available.

2016: Launch new retail websites

2017: Launch new wholesale website