Whole Foods Market Launches Support Program for Local Suppliers
Whole Foods Market is opening the 2023 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 six-month long 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. Whole Foods Market has a long history of supporting small, local, and emerging producers. Centralizing the process of supporting these small businesses creates a level playing field for all applicants across all regions of the company.
Applications for the first run of the program are due April 7th, with finalists announced in early July. The 2022 cohort consisted of nine promising local suppliers, three of which are already on the shelf at Whole Foods Market. “Since our start more than four decades ago, we’ve been empowering small, local and emerging producers,” said Alyssa Vescio, Senior Vice President of Merchandising at Whole Foods Market. “We’re thrilled to continue this important part of our legacy through the Local and Emerging Accelerator Program. We could not be more excited to begin our search for a new and innovative group of suppliers we can support.” Whole Foods Market has a long legacy of supporting local brands. In 2021 the company added 500 new local brands and 6,500 new local items to its shelves.
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 virtually attend two-hour weekly classes for a period of 8 to 10 weeks, plus one meeting per month with their Local Forager. The company also evaluates new items on sustainability in production and packaging.