Continuing its mission to bring local products to market, Whole Foods will open its new 41,436-square-foot Portsmouth, N.H., store on June 25. The new store will feature hundreds of local foods and beverages, including tortilla chips from Tortilleria Mi Nina, pudding from Echo Farm Puddings and fresh pasta and sauces from Cucina Aurora.
An extensive selection of nearly 300 beers, including options from local breweries such as Smuttynose Brewing Co., Great North Aleworks and Great Rhythm Brewing Co. are also on tap.
A bakery department offers an array of made-from-scratch breads, cakes and cupcakes, as well as vegan and special diet options. Local leavenings include bagels made with fresh milled flour from One Mighty Mill and hearth-baked breads from The Olde Craft Bakery and Iggy’s Bread of the World.
The Portsmouth store’s full-service seafood counter features fresh seafood, in-house seasoned and marinated shrimp and salmon burgers, and an extensive variety of frozen seafood options with all offerings either sustainable wild-caught or Responsibly Farmed. Local offerings include more than 20 varieties of oysters from Fat Dog Shellfish Co.
To find out more about how Whole Foods Market’s foragers source a wide array of local offerings, from produce to meat, cheese, beauty products and more, WGB connected with Holly Long, Whole Foods Market local forager, North Atlantic region, who has been working to source delicious and interesting local products for the new Portsmouth store that meet the grocer’s strict quality standards.
Jennifer Strailey: Being a forager for Whole Foods Market sounds like a dream job. What do you love most about your career?
Holly Long: Oh my gosh, it is 100% my dream job. What I love most about my job is being able to help budding local suppliers go from ideation of a product to shelf and then watching them grow. It is such a powerful and inspiring experience, and I’m so proud to be able play a part in that. All of the work that we do as local foragers also directly relates back to my favorite Whole Foods Market core value of practicing win-win partnerships with our suppliers and caring about our communities.
I’ve been in my role now as the North Atlantic forager for a little over three years, and I can confidently say that these have been my favorite years of my 18-year career here at Whole Foods Market.
Does Whole Foods currently have a presence in the Portsmouth area? Curious as to how you approach the forager process when Whole Foods is opening a new store. How do you find and foster new brands in each market?
We currently have two existing stores in New Hampshire as well as a store in Portland, Maine, that is not too far away from Portsmouth, but this is our first store on the seacoast of New Hampshire. For new stores, we typically try to forage for items from the immediate local area, but we also look to highlight existing local suppliers that we already have amazing relationships with. For our Portsmouth store, we’ve done just that. We have some hyperlocal honey from a new supplier, SeaBee Honey, as well as dehydrated garlic grinders from Backyard Garlic, located right in Portsmouth.
In addition, we are also excited to feature an existing partner that we found when opening our first New Hampshire store, Aissa Sweets, and their exquisite Syrian baklava and desserts and to launch a new exclusive product at Whole Foods Market Portsmouth—a spice blend from [an] existing local supplier DennyMikes called Port City Spice, which is a savory blend that will be available for retail on our grocery shelves as well as used in some recipes created by our culinary team for our prepared foods department.
How important is local to Whole Foods’ shoppers and how do you promote the local products you carry?
Supporting local farmers and producers is incredibly important to Whole Foods Market’s customers and team members and it is one of our greatest differentiators. We promote our local supplier community in many ways. We make sure to have local products placed throughout the store so customers can continuously see local choices throughout their shop, and we highlight them with local in-store marketing.
In addition, we have some specific local merchandising fixtures that are used to highlight featured local suppliers each month along with story-telling local supplier profile signs. Beyond in-store support, we also work with local suppliers through different community efforts and events and work to tell stories about our partnerships through Whole Foods Market digital and social channels.
What are Whole Foods’ goals with regard to local products across all stores?
Our goal is to continue to forage for locally sourced, innovative and trending products on an ongoing basis while also supporting and helping our existing local suppliers to prosper and grow. In the North Atlantic region we support more than 850 local producers and farmers from across New England.
Is there one local product that you discovered and nurtured through the process of getting into WFM that is particularly near and dear to you?
There have been so many over the years, but the one that is nearest and dearest to my heart is One Mighty Mill. Jon Olinto, one of the founders, had approached us a few years back with his vision to bring back local, fresh milling to New England, supporting local farms and returning to a sustainable localized culture of milling grains.
By securing organic wheat from Aurora Farms in Maine and then building their own stone-grinding mill in the city of Lynn, Mass., they have started the revolution, and I was so fortunate to become part of that story.
Whole Foods Market started by offering One Mighty Mill’s Bagels and Tortillas in our stores a couple of years ago and from there, expanded to include a line of bagged pretzels that launched as Whole Foods Market exclusive item.
As their sales continued to grow and their mission to keep building mills also grew, we worked with One Mighty Mill to approve a Whole Foods Market Local Producer Loan that they were able to use to purchase some packaging equipment, allowing them some efficiencies and the opportunity to expand into the Northeast region. After showing our two regions’ successes, two more of our regions added One Mighty Mill to their shelves and this coming fall the next set of mills will be opening in our Northeast region.
One Mighty Mill’s mission is not just to sell bagels and pretzels, it’s to make a real sustainable difference in our local communities, and we are so fortunate to have them as one of our valued local suppliers here at Whole Foods Market.
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