"I would carry that if it met my quality standards."
The Fingers Interview with Whole Foods' Mary Guiver about "hard milk," good stories, and scouting booze trends
I just published a story at VinePair about the slow and steady rise of dairy-based booze, which contrary to this joke blog I wrote last year, is both very real, and also a promising upcycle usage for the environmentally harmful waste from cheesemaking. Huh! I hope you’ll check out the full piece for more detail, because there’s a lot in there, from obscure yeast strains turning yogurt byproduct into vodka, to an improbably germane 2011 music video from Ginuwine. Yes, Ginuwine of “Pony” fame. Do you know of another Ginuwine? Don’t be absurd! Anyway, my point here is: life is full of marvels, dear reader, and dairy-based booze is no exception.
Whenever I report a bigger story, I usually publish a handful of “murdered darlings” from the reporting process (i.e., interesting insights and quotes from sources that didn’t make the final cut) here at ye olde boozeletter. But this time around, I’ve opted to publish the transcript from my interview with one source in particular: Mary Guiver, the principal category merchant for beer & spirits at Whole Foods Market.
I recently interviewed Mary at length about how she keeps an eye on emerging beverage trends, what it takes to successfully pitch unconventional beverage alcohol products to Whole Foods customers, and how she evaluates a product’s backstory when deciding whether to try it out in the cold box. (Plus lots more.) I found our chat to be a fascinating peek behind the curtain on how an influential retail expert thinks about the beverage-alcohol category as a whole. Hope you agree.
Editor’s note: This transcript has been edited and condensed.
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👋 Meet Mary Guiver, Whole Foods’ principal category merchant for beer & spirits
Dave Infante, Fingers: Thanks for getting on the phone with me, Mary! By way of kicking things off, can you give me a little bit of background about yourself and your role at Whole Foods?
Mary Guiver, Whole Foods Market: Sure, so I've been in my role for about three years. I’ve been with Whole Foods for, I think I'm pushing 17 years, and most of that has been in adult beverage one way or another.