Whole Foods Market has revealed the two recipients of the Supplier of the Year award in its 2017 Supplier Awards, which recognize producer partners that embody the grocer's mission and values.
Califia Farms, a Los Angeles-based producer of plant-based milk alternatives, received the Supplier of the Year award for positioning its brand at the forefront of innovation within plant-based dairy alternatives, as well as its passion for quality ingredients and environmental stewardship. Selah, Wash.-based fruit processor Rainier Fruit Co. received the same award, as well as one for Excellence in Product Quality, recognized for a strong partnership that continues to expand and evolve, and its investment in state-of-the-art growing techniques and packing facilities to ensure that it provides consistent, high-quality produce.
The awards, which have been given to fewer than 100 out of thousands of Whole Foods suppliers over the years, recognized top supplier partners in 16 categories this year, in addition to the two that received top honors. Each category highlights such areas of achievement as product innovation, environmental stewardship, ethical sourcing and excellence in quality standards and assurance.
Additional honorees, revealed at a reception held in Austin, were:
- Best New Product: Siete Family Foods for its Siete Tortilla Chips, as they show the company’s commitment and partnership in launching a new product, as well as its equal commitment to taste, quality and customer needs.
- Excellence in Product Quality: Ittella Foods, for exceptional transparency, craftsmanship and commitment to both safety and quality. Itella exceeds performance goals in Whole Foods stores and remains at the forefront of culinary trends with its comfort foods for special diets.
- Environmental Stewardship: Guayaki Sustainable Rainforest Products Inc., for its commitment to the principles of organics and Fair Trade in bringing yerba mate to stores across the company.
- Outstanding Exclusive Brands: Lassonde Pappas, for unparalleled food safety and product compliance, as well as a robust quality assurance program.
- Outstanding Innovation: Snak King Corp., for its partnership with Whole Foods’ exclusive-brands teams, and innovation in the salty snack category.
- Commodity Ingredients: Hampton Farms, for its partnership in supplying nuts and peanuts for Whole Foods’ in-store bulk nut butter program, and its support of small family farmers through its grower program.
- Excellence in Cheese: Cowgirl Creamery, for its commitment to high-quality natural and organic products. Its single-source farmers' partnership supports transparency, as well as commitment to the organic mission of the company.
- Outstanding Wine and Beer: Valkyerie Selections and Banshee Wines, for their commitment to working relationships with small, sustainable family vineyard and winery owners both abroad and in the United States, in their pursuit of making world-class wines that deliver in both quality and value.
- Dedication to Responsible Sourcing: Thistle Farms, for its mission to improve people’s lives through empowered employment. A maker of natural bath and body care products, Thistle Farms is a nonprofit organization in which women acquire the skills they need to earn a living wage.
- Outstanding Innovation: Pacha Soap, for its innovative handcrafted froth bath bombs. Pacha enacts its mission through the setup of soap shops, clean-water initiatives and other sustainable ventures in developing nations.
- Partnership: General Mills and its portfolio of natural brands, for supporting multiple aspects of Whole Foods’ purchasing evolution, including category management, space planning, marketing and training.
- Excellence in Standards: Wholesum Harvest, for its commitment to organics, Fair Trade, sustainability and responsibly grown produce.
- Outstanding Quality Assurance: Driscoll’s, for commitment to quality at each step of berry production and distribution, from the nursery and its network of independent growers, to its support of Whole Foods stores and shoppers.
- Distinguished Service: The Oppenheimer Group, for its partnership in developing key programs with Whole Foods, and for its commitment to customer service, transparency and business planning that supports Whole Foods store produce companywide.
- New Product Innovation: Beef Northwest, for developing a Global Animal Partnership Step 4-rated cattle program with corn-on-pasture finishing. The program enhances the animal welfare and health of the cattle, and is now offered in nine Whole Foods regions.
- Product with a Purpose: Heritage Foods, for its highly differentiated natural pork products. Its goal of transitioning to a non-GMO diet has come to fruition, and it has been instrumental in helping community-based non-GMO soybean-processing plants and feed mills to certify to Non-GMO Project Verified standards.
Special recognition went to Icelandic dairy products company Siggi’s, organic clothing manufacturer Synergy and seafood processor Aquanor.