An Israeli-Jewish bakery from Provincetown, Rhode Island, and a soy-free chocolate producer from Oklahoma City are among Whole Foods Market's inaugural class of its Local and Emerging Accelerator Program (LEAP).
Designed to help local food producers get their products on Whole Foods' shelves, the LEAP cohort will be mentored, take classes, receive potential financial support and have the chance to attain self placement when they successfully complete the program.
The 10 participants will have the opportunity to showcase their up-and-coming brands during a 12-week program that will be taught by Whole Foods Market and other experts in the industry. Cohort members will also participate in a yearlong mentorship with a Whole Foods local forager.
When the program is completed successfully (including meeting Whole Foods Market’s Quality Standards for ingredients), participants will become Whole Foods Market suppliers and have their products placed on the shelves of their home city’s Whole Foods stores. In addition, successful members of LEAP will be eligible to receive financial support of $25,000 from a donor-advised fund managed by the Austin Community Foundation.
The first cohort of brand participants in the Local and Emerging Accelerator Program are: Buns Bakery, an Israeli-Jewish bakery based in Providence, Rhode Island; CHKP, creators of non-dairy products in Brooklyn, New York; Coyotas, a Mexican-American tortilla company based in San Diego; Good Girl Chocolate, a gluten- and soy-free chocolate company in Oklahoma City; Numa, an Asian-inspired taffy and peanut candy producer in Fallsington, Pennsylvania; Onana Foods, a plantain-based tortilla-maker in Fort Collins, Colorado; Pizzazza, a frozen pizza producer in Bellingham, Washington; Tangles & Beyond, a haircare company based in Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Theo’s Plant Based, a vegan jerky maker from Chicago; and Vamigas, a skin care brand made from Latin American botanicas that's based in Alamo, California.
“We are delighted to welcome 10 exceptional local producers to the first cohort of our Local and Emerging Accelerator Program,” said Will Betts, Whole Foods VP of local merchandising, in a statement. “We look forward to sharing valuable insights into marketing best practices, strategy and channel development to help expand the cohort members’ brands, while preparing to introduce their products to Whole Foods Market shoppers. Whole Foods Market has long been committed to supporting small, local and emerging producers. The Local and Emerging Accelerator Program enhances our ability to strengthen our relationships with local brands, and elevate our product selection for communities across the country.”