A spice company CEO took a stand against bigotry. It turned out to be good for business.

On Nov. 15, 2016, Bill Penzey, CEO of Penzeys Spices, unloaded on Donald Trump's rhetoric in the company newsletter.

Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images.

In the letter, Penzey called out the president-elect for promoting bigotry on the campaign trail, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report.


"The open embrace of racism by the Republican Party in this election is now unleashing a wave of ugliness unseen in this country for decades," Penzey wrote. "The American people are taking notice. Let's commit to giving the people a better choice. Our kindness really is our strength."

Both supporters and detractors flooded the Facebook post with the comments. Some threatened to boycott the spice company.

Penzey issued a statement clarifying that he didn't intend to indict all Republicans, though he refused to back down from his condemnation of Trump, calling the president-elect an "openly racist candidate."

That was two weeks ago. In a follow-up message posted yesterday, the company insists its customers have rallied behind it and urges other CEOs to speak out to defend an inclusive, tolerant America.

A Penzeys Spices store in Michigan. Photo by Lola Audu/Flickr.

In the post, Penzey wrote that since his original post, results for the business have been mixed but mostly positive. The company claims to have lost 3% of its customers following the initial post, but saw an increase in online sales of nearly 60%.

The CEO said that despite the backlash, he has no regrets about speaking up:

"Our customers come from all walks of life. The kindness of cooks knows no borders or divides. In the aftermath of the election, seeing the intentional damage inflicted on so many outside the white heterosexual male world, we raised our voice. We felt we had to. We did this because we are Penzeys. The Spice business is so intertwined with history that it's not really possible to have one without the other. It became clear to us that we are now in a moment history will long have its eyes upon. For the sake of our customers, and for the sake of future generations, we felt the time had come to stand on the right side of history."

He concluded the post with an appeal to his fellow business leaders:

"In this moment there is finally the real chance to unite our nation in our shared rejection of sexism, homophobia, and racism. This is your chance to stand up for America's values and make January a tent pole in your company's history. Opportunities to do the right thing at the time when doing the right thing makes all the difference come once in a lifetime. Make your history proud."

Standing up against bigotry and discrimination shouldn't be a left or right issue — no matter who the offender is.

Progressives, moderates, and conservatives all have a stake in this country and its bedrock ideals: inclusion, pluralism, freedom of expression, and democracy. Indeed, opposition to Trump's divisive rhetoric continues to flow in from across the political spectrum.

Penzey, for his part, sees hope in the response his posts generated — even from those who loudly opposed his views.

"Yes, they send emails of rage, and ALL CAPS, and bad language with the hope of creating the perception that they are bigger than they really are. But what we learned is that, in terms of retail spending, Donald Trump simply has no one supporting his views for America," the CEO wrote. "He has no constituency. America's Values, on the other hand, have a really sizable constituency, and that constituency moves quickly to support those that stand up for the values of America.

Given the rise in hate violence and threats since Nov. 8, it may be wishful thinking to say that intolerance and bigotry have no support. Still, Penzey deserves credit for risking the ire of his customers to fight back against them.

Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images.

While the company's sales surge post-newsletter is further evidence that bigotry and division are bad for business, it also demonstrates that hope and inclusion can be a winning sales pitch.

Fixing the division that erupted in this country post-election is going to take individual action, organizing, and more companies like Penzeys flexing their financial muscle. Increasingly, many are: Kellogg's, 3M, and Vanguard pulled their ads from Breitbart (Trump adviser Steve Bannon's former employer) earlier this week, albeit for various reasons.

The distrust and unease unleashed by the campaign — and the rhetoric since — has opened up a wound in this country that needs to be healed.

It will only happen if we come together — left, right, liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, individuals and big corporations, workers and CEOs — to defend the values that make America America.

More
Rice University

A plaque marking the death of a glacier comes with a haunting message to future generations.

The former Okjökull glacier in western Iceland is the first to lose its status as a glacier due to climate change. Known now as simply "Ok," the once sprawling ice sheet has melted to about seven percent of what it was a century ago and was declared no longer a glacier in 2014.

Scientists predict that in the next 200 years, if the climate crisis is not mitigated, the rest of Iceland's 400 glaciers will meet the same fate.

Next month, the land that Ok once covered will be marked with a memorial plaque. Researchers from Rice University in Houston, Texas, Icelandic author Andri Snær Magnason, and geologist Oddur Sigurðsson—who first declared the glacier's lost status—will unveil the plaque in a public ceremony on August 18.

The plaque's text begins, "A letter to the future," then reads:

Keep Reading Show less
Planet
Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash

A quarter of domestic cats have had their claws removed. Even though it might make the owners lives a little easier, the procedure can be incredibly painful for the animals and has been described as "barbaric."

Most of Europe and Canada have banned cat declawing (onychectomy), as well as several U.S. cities, but New York just became the first state to do so. Now, any vet who declaws a cat in the there will face a fine of $1,000, unless the procedure is medically necessary.

"Declawing is a cruel and painful procedure that can create physical and behavioral problems for helpless animals, and today it stops," New York GovernorAndrew Cuomo saidin a statement, per USA Today.

Some people get their cat declawed to stop their furniture and flesh from being destroyed. However, declawing a cat isn't the best way to stop a cat from scratching. In fact, it's probably the worst. "If a person has an issue with a cat scratching, well, first of all, I'd advise them don't get a cat because that is the very nature of a cat. But, secondly, there are ways to change cats' behavior. Get scratching posts. There are vinyl sheathes that could be placed on the nails," Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said. Rosenthal sponsored the bill and is a cat owner, herself. "[T]here's many ways to address that behavior." None of the ways you address the problem should include taking it's claws off.

Keep Reading Show less
Cities
Alie Ward

Your dinner plate shouldn't shame you for eating off of it. But that's exactly what a set being sold at Macy's did.

The retailer has since removed the dinnerware from their concept shop, Story, after facing social media backlash for the "toxic message" they were sending.

The plates, made by Pourtions, have circles on them to indicate what a proper portion should look like, along with "helpful — and hilarious — visual cues" to keep people from "overindulging."

There are serval different styles, with one version labeling the largest portion as "mom jeans," the medium portion as "favorite jeans," and the smallest portion as "skinny jeans."

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being

In today's installment of the perils of being a woman, a 21-year-old woman shared her experience being "slut-shamed" by her nurse practitioner during a visit to urgent care for an STD check.

The woman recently had sex with someone she had only just met, and it was her first time hooking up with someone she had not "developed deep connections with."

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being