Whole Foods Market says its Local Producer Loan Program (LPLP) has reached the initial goal of funding $10 million in low-interest loans to local and independent food businesses, and has now committed up to $25 million in funding. The LPLP has provided 184 loans to 155 companies since its inception in 2007.
In providing easier access to loans for budding food businesses, the program’s first $10 million in funding has not only enabled growth, but also supported pioneering projects in biodynamic farming, non-GMO animal feed, pollinator health and sustainable packaging, according to the Austin, Texas-based grocer.
“Expanding the Local Producer Loan Program is a direct result of the innovations and successes of our loan recipients,” said Betsy Foster, Whole Foods Market global VP of growth and business development. “By playing a role in advancing new ideas, growing businesses and realizing dreams, Whole Foods Market stays connected with both our neighborhood producers and our global food community.”
With the additional commitment of $15 million in funding, the company welcomes new loan applications from producers seeking to expand their businesses. Whether applicants offer a distinctive artisan food product or a new hydroponic farming facility, Whole Foods Market loan administrators, buyers and local foragers work closely with business owners to drive growth and success.
“The most rewarding part of the loan process is building relationships and sharing ideas for progress,” said Dwight Richmond, Whole Foods Market global grocery purchasing coordinator. “Whether it’s improving the business plan, discussing market trends or connecting people with new partners in our network, it’s exciting to see the results of great teamwork combined with monetary support.”
The most recent loan, pushing LPLP to the $10 million milestone, was awarded to WholeSoy & Co., an independent, San Francisco-based producer of non-GMO, organic, vegan, gluten-free soy yogurt. The company received $400,000—one of the program’s highest loans to date—to help build its own (dairy-free) yogurt facility after its co-packer unexpectedly closed for business in mid-2013, leaving it without a way to package its yogurt.
“The loan from Whole Foods Market, one of our original and long-term retail supporters, gave us access to the resources we needed at a crucial time. After raising most of the funds required, this additional $400,000 will help us realize our dream of having our own dairy-free yogurt facility,” said Ted Nordquist, CEO of WholeSoy & Co. “Whole Foods Market truly cares about our success and worked closely with us to support our re-entry into the marketplace. Their commitment to the brand has been critical in our being able to get WholeSoy back on the shelf for our many loyal consumers in 2014.”
While some loan recipients sell products in Whole Foods Market stores, such as organic vegetable farmers, grass-fed cattle ranchers, natural body care producers and gluten-free bakers, many other recipients operate businesses that support the natural foods industry. Additionally, 43 companies are owned by women and an additional 36 are co-owned by women.
Loan recipients must meet Whole Foods Market’s quality standards, use the funds for expansion and have a viable business plan. Typical loans range from $1,000 to $100,000 and have fixed low-interest rates.
Previous loan recipients have used their loans for purchasing more livestock, investing in new equipment, expanding production facilities, adapting to more sustainable practices or converting to organic production.