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Local Suppliers Ready To Take LEAP With Whole Foods

Whole Foods LEAP cohort 2023

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market has announced the cohorts for two tracks of the Local and Emerging Accelerator Program (LEAP) – Early Growth and On the Verge. 

Launched along with the inaugural Early Growth cohort in 2022, the LEAP initiative advances Whole Foods’ core value of partnering with local suppliers for access to tailored educational programming and one-on-one mentorship. 

Participants are 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 food brands that are not on Whole Foods’ shelves. Once the 12-week curriculum is complete, each of their products will be considered for placement in the grocer’s stores of their home city or region. 

Whole Foods received more than 1,000 new applications for the Early Growth cohort, doubling last year’s total. Those selected include: Bam, Diaspora Co.Gringuita Cookies, Jaju Pierogi, Kinship Milk Tea, La Rossi Pizza, Lazy Food Co., Ruby Jean’s Juicery, Seed to Surf and Tiny Sprouts Food.

Introduced this year, the second cohort, On the Verge, expands the opportunity to local and emerging Whole Foods’ suppliers. 

Sold in select stores, they demonstrate strong growth potential and are poised for success. They also are considered innovative in trends, flavors, community engagement or sustainability. Furthermore, they demonstrate mission and values that align with those of Whole Foods.

The participants, selected from among nominations by Whole Foods’ merchants and foragers, include: Better Chew, Bright Endeavors, Fila Manila, fitppl, Little Sesame, Misha’s Kind Foods, Nana Joes Granola, Nguyen Coffee Supply, The Pizza Cupcake and 12 Tides.

“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. 

“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.”

Brands seeking more information on LEAP can visit the Information for Potential Suppliers page on Whole Foods’ website.

About the author

Sommer Stockton

Web Editor

Sommer joined The Shelby Report in January 2022 after graduating from Brenau University in Gainesville, GA with a B.A. and M.A. in Communications and Media Studies. Sommer is excited to learn about the grocery industry and share her findings with The Shelby Report's readers!

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