Whole Foods Market Launches Support Program for Local Suppliers

Whole Foods Market is opening the 2024 application process for Local and Emerging Accelerator Program to help small-scale, local suppliers grow their business. The program, which launched in 2022, offers a 12-week education program from Whole Foods Market experts tailored toward small and emerging producers, plus one year of mentorship from a Local Forager. There is also potential for suppliers to receive financial support to promote business growth. Select program participants will secure shelf space at their local Whole Foods Market stores, plus ongoing support after gaining placement. The grocer has a long history of supporting small, local, and emerging producers. The review process was previously handled at a regional level, but centralizing the process creates a level playing field for all applicants across all regions, according to the company.

“Whole Foods Market deeply values the connections to local and emerging brands, enriched by the LEAP program,” said Alyssa Vescio, Senior Vice President of Merchandising at Whole Foods Market. “By equipping emerging brands with the necessary tools, education, and access, we’re not just fostering their growth — we’re cultivating a dynamic platform for creativity, innovation, and positive change that resonates with our purpose to nourish people and the planet,” Vescio said. Applications for the first run of the program are due April 19th, with finalists announced in early July.

Supplier participants who successfully complete the program have the potential to receive financial support toward their business growth. Participants may receive $25,000 equity investment from a donor-advised fund managed by the Austin Community Foundation, with proceeds benefiting Whole Foods Market’s private operating Foundations. Some local producers may also receive support from the grocer’s Local Producer Loan Program which lends money to small-scale, local or emerging producers across the U.S. and Canada to help them grow their businesses. Whole Foods Market defines “local” as a product produced within the operating state or up to 275 miles from the store selling the product. For local program applicants to hit the company’s radar, product must reflect innovation in trends and flavors. Applicants must meet Whole Foods Market quality standards and business requirements, as well as being available to participate virtually in the weekly sessions for a period of 12 weeks starting in August 2024.