Whole Foods' program tracks provide mentorship and a tailored curriculum, supporting emerging brands poised for growth.
Keeping its eye on up-and-coming brands, Whole Foods Market has revealed participants in its newest cohorts for two tracks of the Local and Emerging Accelerator Program (LEAP): Early Growth and On the Verge. The LEAP initiative launched in 2022 with the inaugural Early Growth cohort, and according to Whole Foods, it continues to advance its core value of seeking win-win partnerships with suppliers with access to tailored educational programming and one-on-one mentorship for local brands. Participants in the Early Growth program will be eligible to receive a $25,000 equity investment from a donor-advised fund managed by the Austin Community Foundation, with proceeds benefiting Whole Foods’ private operating foundations.
The Early Growth cohort is made up of 10 innovative food brands that are not yet sold on the grocer’s shelves. Once the 12-week curriculum is complete, each supplier’s products will also be considered for placement on the shelves of Whole Foods stores in their home city or region. This year, Whole Foods received more than 1,000 new applicants for the Early Growth cohort, doubling applications from the first year.
Whole Foods' 10 picks for its 2023 Early Growth brand participants are:
Kinship Milk Tea
Ruby Jean's Juicery
Tiny Sprouts Food
La Rossi Pizza
Lazy Food Co.
Seed to Surf
As part of the 2023 programming, Whole Foods introduced a second cohort, LEAP: On the Verge to expand the opportunity to current local and emerging Whole Foods suppliers. These suppliers are currently sold in select stores, already demonstrate strong growth potential and are poised for success. On the Verge brands are also considered innovative in trends, flavors, community engagement or sustainability, and demonstrate mission and values which align with Whole Foods’ own core values.
On the Verge participants are selected from a group of suppliers that were nominated by Whole Foods merchants and foragers. Suppliers selected for the 2023 On the Verge initiative are:
Misha’s Kind Foods
Nana Joes Granola
The Pizza Cupcake
Nguyen Coffee Supply
“We are thrilled to welcome 10 exceptional local producers from all over the country into our second LEAP: Early Growth cohort,” said Alyssa Vescio, SVP of merchandising for Whole Foods Market. “On top of that, we’ve expanded LEAP to support our existing supplier community through the On the Verge track, which will help brands explore the next stage of their growth potential, providing mentorship from both Whole Foods Market team members as well as industry peers and experts. LEAP has been one of the most rewarding ways to support the local and emerging brands that bring incredible products and innovation not only to Whole Foods Market stores, but to our broader communities. These are truly the brands to watch!”
Meanwhile, Whole Foods is making its 365 private brand more accessible to Amazon Prime members by offering free shipping on its roster of products, according to a customer email. Pantry staples, household essentials, health-and-wellness items, and pet products can be added directly to customers’ Amazon shopping carts for quick delivery.