Tag Archives: employee benefits

What Makes a Co-op?

9 Apr

Since Frontier was founded in 1976, we’ve been a co-op. But what exactly does that mean?

Our co-op members are the owners of Frontier. They guide our business decisions, share in our success, and support organic farmers around the world.

Since the co-op began, we’ve remained firmly committed to our founding values — values like integrity, openness, social responsibility, and respect for the environment.

We’ve always considered the way we do business an essential part of our success — and we consider it a requirement of our success that we grow and prosper by contributing to the world rather than exploiting it.

We feel this special relationship of ownership is at the heart of our success. Not only do we have unique insight into natural products by having our member/owners in direct contact with the consumers of the products, the co-op structure has fostered our honest, responsible business practices that are increasingly valued in the marketplace.

A sentence that came out of one of Frontier’s earliest planning sessions expresses one of our most important commitments:

“In all that we do, at all times and with all people,

we will conduct our affairs and the affairs of the company with absolute integrity.”

We apply this test to everything from our product ingredient decisions to the sharing of information with our customers.

And we invite you to join us as a member of our co-op!

A Timeline of Frontier’s History

14 Aug

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!

FRONTIER TIMELINE

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!

Today, after even more expansion and advancement, we’re dedicated to continuing our tradition of excellence in all we do.

Dennis Knock, Commodity Manager and Student

21 Jul

Meet Dennis Knock, Commodity Manager at Frontier Natural Products. His role is to create category strategy and manage vendors by traveling internationally and domestically meeting with growers and processors.

We’re chatting with Dennis today about one of our employee benefits, our education reimbursement program.

Dennis recently returned to college at Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, while continuing to work full time at Frontier. He spent 3 years completing his program, and in 2010 was awarded his Bachelor’s Degree in Business.  We’re very proud of him!

What prompted you to return to school?  

I was motivated both professionally and personally to earn my degree.  It had always been a personal goal and for many years family and work took priority, but once I took the leap and returned it became a part of my regular routine.

The tuition reimbursement program offered by Frontier was a great benefit and allowed me to get my degree at no financial cost to me for which I am very grateful and appreciative.

What classes helped you the most? What did you enjoy most?  

The business-related classes such as Financial Management, Strategic Planning and the math-related classes were very beneficial.  The ones I enjoyed most were the challenging classes like Statistics, and Economics.  When I achieved a good grade in those classes I felt like I had really accomplished something.

Dennis Knock, Mount Mercy College grad.

What were some of the sacrifices you had to make?  

I missed out on a few kids activities but the biggest thing was managing my time efficiently so there wasn’t much time for TV or golf, but I did manage to watch my Iowa Hawkeyes on football Saturdays.

What was the most surprising thing about returning to school?

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how I could relate my learning to real life and my professional experience. I was also surprised by how much I had in common with my fellow classmates. We were all facing similar challenges balancing work, family and school so it was nice to have a support system.

Any words of advice to someone who’s considering using this employee benefit at Frontier?

Don’t hesitate to take on the challenge and once you do, embrace the opportunity and enjoy it.  It will not be easy, but it will be a very rewarding experience and one that you will be very proud of.

You can read more about Frontier’s employee benefits here.

A July Walk Through Our Tallgrass Prairie

7 Jul

Kathy Larson, Frontier’s VP of Sustainability, took another walk through the tallgrass prairie at our Norway, Iowa, headquarters with her camera, and shares her experience and photos with us here. She’ll return again soon to chronicle the prairie’s changes throughout the year.

With parades, flags, and fireworks over, it’s a good time to head out to the prairie for a relaxing look at nature’s more lasting glory.

A lot has changed since a month ago — everything is taller and more lush. The red-winged blackbirds are as noisy as ever, flying over my head then perching on last year’s sturdy compass plant flower stalks, keeping an eye on me as they guard their hidden nests. A prairie is prime nesting and feeding habitat for these birds, whose diet is about 75% small seeds and grains and 25% small insects — both of which are plentiful here.

Both of the species of echinacea in our prairie are starting to bloom. Echinacea pallida has slender pale purple-pink, drooping petals with a conical seed head rising above them.

Echinacea purpurea’s light purple flowers are wider and form more of a disc.

Another purple flower is horsemint (Monarda fistulosa). The plants are widespread through the upper parts of the prairie and covered with flower buds. The whole plant has a minty-spicy aroma and flavor. Teas made from horseweed were commonly used as remedies among Midwest native peoples.

Two milkweeds adorn our prairie. First is the orange-flowered butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa).

Next is the common milkweed (Asclepias syrica), which has pink and white flower balls at the tops of the plants. Although the milkweeds are much loved by butterflies, none would come and pose for a picture this day.

The color yellow is not to be outdone by the pinks and purple on this walk. Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia serotina) are found here and there in the drier parts of the prairie — their brown center discs like dark eyes looking out from among the sunny petals.

And yellow coneflowers (Ratidibida pinnata) are just starting to send out their yellow petals from their gray/brown central cones.

The flowers of the golden Alexanders, so prevalent in last month’s prairie, are all but gone, and seeds are starting to ripen and turn brown.

The spotted St. John’s (Hypericum punctatum) is just starting to open its half-inch yellow flowers with their numerous stamens that give the flower’s center a whimsical, fairyland look.

Canadian milk vetch (Astragalus canadensis), a legume that helps add nitrogen to prairie soil, grows here and there in small dense colonies, its white flowered spikes easily hidden by surrounding plants.

Another plant with spikes of white flowers is prairie false indigo (Baptisia leucantha). The inch-long, pea-like flowers open first at the bottom of the foot-long stalk.

Along the prairie edges, I find a few yarrow plants (Achillea millefolium) with their white clusters of flowers atop finely divided foliage. While not planted as part of the prairie, yarrow grows wild in old pastures and waste areas and has found its way along the prairie edge where there is plenty of sun.

A stroll over to the small wildlife pond at the edge of the prairie reveals that the recent hot weather lowered the water level several feet.

The track-covered muddy banks now exposed are proof of the pond’s value to the wildlife living in and near the prairie.

When the sun goes down later, the night will be filled with the singing of the frogs that make their home there.

Enjoy Kathy’s previous prairie visit.

And here’s our food feature on Cobblers, Crisps & Pies as Summer Fruit Treats.

A Walk Through Our Tallgrass Prairie

2 Jun

Kathy Larson, Frontier’s VP of Sustainability, took a walk through the tallgrass prairie at our Norway, Iowa headquarters with her camera in hand recently, and shares her experience and photos with us here. She’s agreed to return regularly (it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it) to chronicle the prairie’s changes throughout the year.

With both a strong warm breeze out of the southeast and gathering clouds foreshadowing rain, I stroll out to the Frontier tallgrass prairie to see which plants are growing and which are blooming.

I notice many remnants of last year’s foliage, including tall stalks of compass plant and ironweed, which are the favorites of the redwing blackbirds. The birds perch atop the stalks to survey their territory and noisily warn away competitors — and they obviously consider me one.

Bunches of dried grasses, still standing tall throughout the landscape, hide much of the new plant growth, but it’s there. Many plants, like gentian and mondarda, are just starting to poke their heads out from the soil. Others, like the Maximillan sunflowers, are already nearly a foot tall, with last year’s flowering stalks rising from the center of the new green leaves.

The only prairie plant I can find that is flowering this early is Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), a member of the carrot family. The plants are just starting to bloom. When fully opened, their bright yellow clusters of flowers will provide a source of nectar for many types of bees, wasps and small butterflies. Golden Alexanders grows in moist prairies and abandoned fields and is scattered throughout the lower and wetter parts of our prairie.

Along the walking trail that circles the prairie, the dandelions are blooming with plenty of sunny yellow flowers — and almost as many fluffy seed heads, ready to be spread afar on the spring breezes.

I see that Frontier employees are not the only ones to walk the prairie trail. Tracks from pheasants and deer crisscross it too.

It’s a pleasure to walk across this vibrant and diverse prairie.

I’ll try to return often and share what I find there with you.

Meet Liz Hopkins, chef at the Frontier Café

13 May

In a recent blog post about our LEED® Silver certificatied renovation, we showed you a photo of the beautiful café at Frontier’s Norway facility.

A real bonus for our café is its wonderful chef, Liz Hopkins. Liz creates the healthy organic lunch offerings our employees enjoy each day. Talk about an employee benefit you don’t find just anywhere! Besides being the chef at Frontier, Liz makes beautiful jewelry that we look forward to seeing at our employee craft fairs. She’s a dragon boat enthusiast too. Versatile gal.

Liz Hopkins, chef at Frontier café. Photo by Kathy Larson

Liz took time out from her duties in the Café kitchen to talk to us about her work at Frontier.

Tell us a bit about what you do at Frontier. What was your background that prepared you for this?

I’m the chef and café manager in the employee Café at the Norway facility.  When I was in my early 20s, I worked at a resort hotel in Arizona and was taught the basics of cooking, so that’s how I knew I could handle this.  A lot of what I do is also self-taught.

What are your favorite go-to spices when you work in the Café?

I really like Simply Organics Vegetable Seasoning, and basil is a favorite spice of mine.  Seriously, I use the Simply Organic Vegetable Seasoning in almost everything: grilled veggies, salad dressing, and salads.

What have you learned about spices from working in the Café that you can share with us?

I have learned to experiment with herbs and spices.  It’s important for people to remember you can add a small amount of a spice to your cooking, and then build on it. You can always add but never take out. Soon you’ll learn what you like.

Can you tell us a few quick tips that you use all the time? Any spices that match certain foods perfectly? (For example, we love the veggie seasoning on the fish you serve at the Café.)

Dill goes with fish.

Thyme goes with chicken.

Basil is always good with tomatoes.

Simply Organic Vegetable Seasoning goes with anything, and I use it on grilled veggies a lot.

For more savory flavor, use oregano or rosemary.

Also, I’ve learned that if food looks good, it usually is. People eat with their eyes! It’s really true.

Do you have any dishes you prepare that seem to be crowd favorites in the Café?

People seem to like my potato pancakes, grilled tofu, roast beef w/smashed potatoes, grilled veggies, and garden burgers. Lots of varieties of sandwiches are popular.

Can you share one of your favorite recipes with us?

GARDEN BURGER

1 cup finely shredded carrots

3/4 cup of cooked brown rice

1/2 cup shredded cheese (what ever flavor you like)

1/4 cup finely chopped onion  (I use a green onion)

1/8 cup finely ground sunflower seeds

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1/4  teaspoon ground ginger

1/4  teaspoon ground coriander

2 egg whites

1 tablespoon tamari

Mix carrots, rice, cheese, onion, sunflower seeds, bread crumbs, parsley, ginger and coriander together in large bowl. Mix well.

In another bowl, mix egg whites (beaten) with tamari.

Add this to dry ingredients and mix well.

Cover, place in refrigerator for one hour.

Scoop into patties and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 min.

What do you like to cook or bake at home for your family?

We like Mexican dishes, and I make a rhubarb crisp we like. To be honest, I cook more at work than I do at home!

Frontier Awarded LEED® Silver Certification

26 Apr

Our renovation included our building facade, while using 100 percent of the existing building’s skin, roofing, and flooring.

Frontier is proud to announce that we’ve been awarded LEED® Silver certification for a major renovation at our manufacturing facility. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. LEED certification is established by the U.S. Green Building Council and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

We achieved LEED certification for energy use, lighting, water and material use as well as a variety of other sustainable practices.

By using less energy and water, LEED certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

“We’re honored to achieve this level of LEED certification, as it truly represents our ongoing commitment to sustainable operations,” stated Tony Bedard, our CEO. “It also gives our employees and customers a benchmark for what Frontier has accomplished up to this point and identifies opportunities where we can continue to improve in the future.”

“The green building movement addresses global climate change, dependence on non-sustainable and expensive sources of energy and threats to human health,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council, which established LEED certification. “The work of innovative building projects such as Frontier’s facility is a fundamental driving force in the green building movement,” Fedrizzi added.

LEED certification of Frontier’s manufacturing facility was based on a number of green design and construction features. Here are some highlights:

  • We completely renovated 7,200 square feet of existing warehouse space with a focus on where energy and/or mechanical systems could be best optimized, including plumbing, HVAC, lighting, and a re-finished concrete floor.  Frontier was able to use minimal resources to establish native landscaping, avoiding the need for a permanent irrigation system. Inside, flush and flow fixtures in restrooms cumulatively achieve 35 percent water efficiency compared to conventional building flush and flow fixtures.
  • We specified energy-efficient envelope lighting, HVAC (water-source heat pumps and commercial RTUs), carbon dioxide sensors and two on-demand water heaters. Altogether, Frontier’s energy efficiency measures will conserve more than 77,000 kilowatt hours compared to a similar conventional building. That’s equal to 55 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Frontier's new employee cafe, featuring a re-finished concrete floor.

  • In addition, Frontier purchases renewable energy certificates (RECs) to offset 100 percent of its facility’s energy requirements and carbon offsets to offset 100% of our product shipping. Frontier’s REC portfolio includes renewable energy generated from wind farms located in Iowa.
  • With a goal to minimize materials and resources as much as possible, Frontier’s renovation reused 100 percent of the existing building’s skin, roofing, and flooring. The renovated interiors promote indoor environmental quality and include low- or no volatile organic compound adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, cabinetry and surfaces.
  • Frontier installed a rapidly renewable bamboo-plank stairway and used cradle-to-cradle (C2C) certified furniture in Frontier’s boardroom, meeting room and offices.

The renovation takes advantage of the natural light flooding our atrium.

  • Frontier’s renovation of existing employee and visitor parking areas maintained parking capacity while protecting and restoring 63 percent of the site with native and adaptive plant material. In addition to designed bio-swales, detention basins, and an on-site wetland, the engineered slope and grade of the employee parking area removes 100 percent of solids in runoff by capturing and filtering more than 90 percent of average annual rainfall on-site.
  • Frontier also created preferred parking spots for 11 low-emissions vehicles and 12 carpools plus added 11 secure bicycle racks with nearby shower and changing facilities. Altogether, the parking program’s goal is to lower greenhouse gasses from employee commuting by 135 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

This award is the culmination of hours of work and dedication on the part of many teams here at Frontier. The job was interrupted at one point by the devastating Iowa floods in the spring of 2008, which took most of the crew away to work on other emergencies.

Each time we gather in our beautiful new test kitchen, we celebrate the achievement!

MORE PHOTOS HERE.    Click “show info” on the slideshow for details.

All photos by Kitty Sheehan.

Frontier’s On-site Childcare

17 Apr

A warm spring day was a welcome addition to a recent celebration at our on-site childcare facility. Photo courtesy Shelly Buswell

We enjoy giving you some inside views of our operation here in Iowa. Every now and then we post some photos of our employees on Facebook, and our fans there seem to enjoy it. Our blog gives us an opportunity to do the same, and also to go into a bit more detail.

A Jump Castle never fails to create excitement, and might be a plus when it comes to napping later. Photo by Jess Otter

At our Norway facility, as an employee benefit, we operate a state-licensed childcare center that serves around 70 children. Frontier subsidizes about half the cost for our employees, with discounts for multiple siblings. Employees’ children can also enjoy day camp fun during their summer break from school. Employees at other locations are provided a subsidy for licensed childcare for their children.

Our CEO Tony Bedard drops by to read a story. Photo courtesy Shelly Buswell

Last week, the kids celebrated the Week of the Young Child, and we snapped some photos on Wacky Day. To the tireless staff at our childcare center, Wacky Day may not have seemed much different than some other days, but it made for some cute photos!

Think you have what it takes to handle this crew every day? Photo by Jess Otter

You can read more about our employee benefits here.

Thanks for stopping by.

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