Emeryville, Calif. (July 8, 2014) – Whole Foods Market’s Northern California region is putting its money where its mouth is with new and continued programs to support small local food and body care producers.
Last week saw the culmination of the region’s first – and the company's first – Local Foodmaker Grant program. Whole Foods Market shoppers in Northern California and Reno raised $201,721 to fund 40 grants for local food and body care product makers based in the area – one grant per each of the region’s 40 stores. The region has also joined up with Credibles so customers can pay in advance for their favorite products, and fund the producer in the process. The region has also named five new recipients for the Local Producer Loan Program, which provides low-interest loans to area makers and growers.
Local Foodmaker Grants
For the first time in company history, stores donated five percent of sales on July 2 to fund grants for local producers. Shoppers contributed to an average grant per supplier of about $5,000, which can fund a food safety audit, Organic certification, Non-GMO Project verification, or even a down payment on a delivery vehicle. Recipients were selected via customer votes, and applicants did not have to be an existing Whole Foods Market supplier. Furthermore, the company is not requiring recipients to take on a more long-term relationship with Whole Foods Market following their receipt of grant money (Whole Foods Market is open to the conversation, though). They can simply use it as needed to grow their business – no strings attached.
“Two of the biggest struggles that face any young business are getting access to funds to help with expansion, and getting the product visibility in the marketplace. So for us, winning a local food maker grant basically killed two birds with one stone,” said Dan Cook, founder of The Mead Kitchen (Berkeley store grant recipient). “The Mead Kitchen will be able to use the grant to help offset the cost of new bottling equipment, and we got our meads a lot of exposure through the Berkeley store. It was also great how we were able to engage our fan base; these are people who have been supporting us since we first came on the market and they really stepped up for us. We owe them a big Thank You!”
Whole Foods Market stores in Northern California and Reno now accept Credibles as payment for participating local food products. Credibles is an online and app-based crowdfunding program for food businesses. With Credibles, customers fund the producers of their favorite food through advance payments and receive “edible credits” for future payment. Customers then redeem these edible credits at Whole Foods Market registers when they shop for the foods in which they invested. In the meantime, the food businesses can use the additional working capital for its operations and growth.
“Credibles takes the connection to the food producers beyond the grocery shelf, making it easy and accessible for people to invest in their local economy,” states Arno Hesse, co-founder of Credibles. “If you eat, you’re an investor.”
Credibles participants have reported it to be a welcome and efficient program, especially to garner customer loyalty. For a list of local food businesses participating in Credibles at Whole Foods Market, visit www.credibles.org/whole-foods.
Local Producer Loan Program
Whole Foods Market has dedicated $25 million company-wide to provide short-term, low-interest loans to local producers. Loans are determined and distributed at a regional level. The Northern California region has recently invested in five area producers:
Nona Lim (Oakland) – naturally detoxifying soups, broths and noodles. Originally from Singapore, Nona Lim sought to bring back her clean, healthy, fresh native cuisine to San Francisco. Dedicated to cooking without gluten, dairy, preservatives, additives, trans fats or high fructose corn syrup, Nona started with a delivery service that has evolved into packaged soups. Now Nona is expanding into noodles and broths; her recent loan will fund a noodle extruder machine and packaging machine to launch the line.
Love & Hummus (San Francisco) – organic hummus, falafel, tahini dressing and muhumara. Owner Donna Sky set out to create sustainable Mediterranean food and certified organic hummus, handmade in small batches and scooped into eco-friendly (BPA-free, recyclable) packaging. All of their hummus is vegan, non-GMO, wheat free and contains no citric acid, fillers, additives or preservatives. Chickpeas are sourced from a single, third generation organic family farm in California. Love & Hummus donates five percent or more of proceeds each year to area nonprofits. This loan will fund new equipment to make hummus.
Hip Chick Farms (Sebastopol) – artisan frozen chicken fingers, wings and meatballs. Former Chez Panisse cook Jen Johnson and her partner, Serafina Palandech, are dedicated to growing sustainable food systems and offering delicious, thoughtful, natural and nutritious chicken products. Their other goal is convenience – helping busy families get easy access to real foods. A portion of sales is donated to charity organizations that raise awareness about humanely-raised farm animals. With this loan, they will design and buy new product packaging.
4505 Meats (San Francisco) – high quality, locally-sourced meats. Chef/Butcher Ryan Farr left his job at a Michelin-starred restaurant in 2009 to found 4505 Meats with his wife, Cesalee. Their goal was to bring people closer to their meat. Ryan began teaching butchery classes and working with Cesalee to develop educational programs. The team is staunchly dedicated to supporting the Bay Area community and food movement. This loan funds development of 4505’s new bacon-studded hot dogs and expands their line of original chicharrones.
Bleating Heart Cheese (Tomales) – sheep and cow’s milk cheeses. Founded by husband and wife team Seana Doughty and Dave Dalton in 2009, Bleating Heart makes premium-quality American original cheeses. Each and every wheel is handcrafted in small batches with milk sourced from small local farms. After several years of renting creamery time from other cheesemakers, Bleating Heart is building their own micro-creamery on Thornton Ranch in West Marin County. With this loan, they’ll convert and upcycle three shipping containers into a cheese aging room.
For other facts about Whole Foods Market’s long-standing commitment to supporting local producers, visit wholefoodsmarket.com/local.
Media should contact grant and loan recipients individually to find out how much grant or loan money each received.
For more information about Credibles, please contact Arno Hesse, firstname.lastname@example.org.