The Global Impact of Northland Grub

North By Choicers take their food and drink seriously.

Unique venues dot the terrain of northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. You’re probably familiar with the atmospheric Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth, with its sizzling burgers — both of the regular and veggie variety — capped off by a rotation of flavorful tap beers.

On the Iron Range, there’s BoomTown in Eveleth and its sister brewery in Hibbing. Or how about The Whistling Bird, a Jamaican themed restaurant tucked away in Gilbert, Minnesota?

And outlets like these are just the beginning. Local businesses like Duluth Coffee Company are actively reshaping the industry — and making a global impact in the process.

While the food and beverage industry as a whole took a big hit in the Great Recession, a lively resurgence is bouncing back. And not only does the resurrected foodie scene look a lot different than the pre-2008 one did. Its values have changed, too.

The new generation of entrepreneurs behind the Northland’s food revival shares the tenets of everyone who came of age during the economic turmoil of the last decade. Transparency and sustainability are now expected to go hand-in-hand with flavor.

These values are especially top-of-mind in the coffee industry. They’re what make a $2.50 cup of fair-trade, certified organic coffee preferable to the alternative, even if the gas station equivalent costs cents on the dollar.

“People want to know about the cup of coffee in their hands, and they care about the person who grew and picked the coffee beans that made it possible,” said Eric Faust, founder and owner of Duluth Coffee Company (DCC).

It also helps that a cup of DCC coffee tastes worlds better than its styrofoam cup equivalent. Clearly, contemporary values come along with a contemporary palette.

Though coffee is only one part of the food and beverage industry, it’s a crucial part, and a telling indicator of contemporary trends playing out within the industry as a whole.

On a global scale, coffee exporting alone is a $20 billion dollar business. It comes in second only to oil as the world’s most sought-after commodity.

Local demand sustains a fair number of coffee roasters, including the Twin Ports-based ARCO Coffee, Alakef, and many more boutique outlets such as the Lakeside-based Deeps Coffee.

And all coffee roasters have one thing in common: they’re intricately connected to many other food and beverage venues throughout the region.

DCC, for one, works with coffee distributors as well as bakeries such as Twisted Pastries in Superior and How Sweet It Is, whose fresh-made goodies are sold at DCC’s 105 East Superior Street location.

The roasteria has also collaborated with breweries such as Earth Rider and Fair State to create coffee-beer concoctions.

“The Cold Press Black began as just an experiment with Bent Paddle,” explains Faust. “It turned out to be a flagship staple for the brewery.”

The wildly successful venture preceded DCC’s own foray into offering alcoholic options. Following a recent expansion, the roasteria now features a bar serving coffee-infused beer and cocktails.

Just as importantly, the new roasteria also provides a place for conversations about coffee to take place. Those conversations often turn toward distant parts of the world — from South America and Africa to Asia and many locations in between. Specifically, everywhere that DCC does fair trade with coffee farmers.

DCC’s economic impact is global in scale. And in terms of distribution, their economic influence spans far beyond the Twin Ports. Patrons as far as Nashville sip DCC coffee, and the company has plans to expand further.

A career within the growing food and beverage industry of northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin can be a delicious way to make an impact. Fortunately, jobs within this evolving sector of the economy are only going to be more in-demand in the near future. You can check out current openings within the #NorthByChoice territory by clicking here.

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