AUSTIN, Texas (April 22, 2016) – Whole Foods Market has revealed the winners of its annual Supplier Awards, the company’s highest honor for producer partners that embody its mission and values. Out of thousands of Whole Foods Market suppliers nationwide, fewer than 70 have received one of these distinguished awards.

Two all-star producers earned the grocer’s top “Supplier of the Year” award for outstanding all-around performance:

  • Grimmway Farms (Perishables) for its longstanding partnership to serve customers with the highest quality organic vegetables. Grimmway Farms is a leader in organic farming, quality standards and product innovation and continues to be a model partner for Whole Foods Market on topics ranging from new models of growth forecasting, to new product development and deep transparency on growing practices.
  • Frontier Co-op (Non-Perishables) for exemplifying partnership through shared values on responsible sourcing. Frontier has supported numerous small farmer co-ops through the introduction and distribution of several Fair Trade seasonings and extracts, such as the new and exclusive Frontier Co-Op Ugandan Vanilla Extract, with 1 percent of sales going directly to the Whole Planet Foundation to fund microloans for poverty alleviation in the communities where the vanilla is sourced.

“Customers trust Whole Foods Market to maintain the highest quality, ingredient and sourcing standards in the entire industry, and our suppliers put in a lot of work and care to help us deliver on that promise,” said Don Clark, Whole Foods Market’s global vice president of procurement, non-perishables. “Our Supplier Award winners set the gold standard for producers in the industry, and we’re proud to celebrate their achievements.”

In addition to its “Supplier of the Year” honorees, Whole Foods Market recognized its top supplier partners in 16 categories that highlight areas of achievement, including product innovation, environmental stewardship, ethical sourcing, and excellence in quality standards and assurance.

“Each one of our supplier partners advances the character, flavor, and integrity of our stores, whether they’re committed to land conservation, sustainable farming methods or simply creating the best-tasting product on our shelves,” said Edmund LaMacchia, Whole Foods Market’s global vice president of procurement, perishables. “We’re grateful for their drive, commitment and partnership in growing their business with Whole Foods Market.”

The retailer revealed its Supplier Award winners at Tuesday night’s reception in Austin, Texas, at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel. Additional honorees included:

Special Recognition

  • Jacobs Farm / Del Cabo, for many years of partnership, most recently evident in the success of a line of co-branded Whole Trade Guarantee® cherry tomatoes from hundreds of farmers in the Baja California and Baja California Sur states of Mexico. The Del Cabo cooperative was formed in 1985 and continues to offer training to members on organic growing, harvesting and handling, as well as startup funds, farming technology, administrative training, and consistent distribution channels—all with the goal of ensuring the best return for small-scale farms.
  • Presence Marketing & Natural Specialty Sales, for their collective representation of hundreds of Whole Foods Market’s supplier partners. The growth in suppliers committed to Whole Foods Market’s quality standards is, in large part, due to the effort of these two organizations. Together, they have built a transparent, collaborative process to track and audit our partnerships to truly create win-win relationships.

Excellence in Standards

  • Sunripe Certified Brands, for its leadership in the grower community on the important topic of farmworker welfare. Sunripe Certified Brands was the first Florida tomato grower to adopt the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Fair Food Program across all of its Florida operations. CEO Jon Esformes and his team continue transforming the organization to ensure health and safety for the men and women who work on Sunripe Certified Brands farms.

Dedication to Responsible Sourcing:

  • Evan Healy, for the company's dedication to creating farm-to-face skin care using ingredients directly sourced from small family farms, women’s cooperatives and tribal villages throughout the world. Each step in the process is done by hand and in small batches — from the fields and forests to the production facility where the blends are formulated. All products also meet Whole Food’s Market Premium Body Care Standards.

Global V.P. Integrity Award

  • Red Tomato, for its work on behalf of small farmers in the northeastern United States and being a voice in supporting a more sustainable, ethical food system. In addition to distributing great local produce from small growers, Red Tomato is also a leader the movement to communicate more deeply about how food is grown.

New Product Innovation

  • Bell & Evans, for continually leading the chicken industry, setting the model many other chicken suppliers over the years have chosen to emulate. Bell & Evans was one of the first producers to adopt raising practices that eliminate the use of antibiotics and animal byproduct in feed, and it continues to be a leader in animal welfare at every stage of the animal’s life; the company recently announced that it will be using a leading animal welfare hatchery.

Excellence in Product Quality

  • Seafood Producers Cooperative, for helping Whole Foods Market offer its customers the best quality, sustainably caught king salmon, coho salmon, halibut, ling cod, sablefish and rockfish on the market; and for its unparalleled customer service, industry expertise and ability to deliver product when no one else can. 

Product with a Purpose

  • Kvarøy Fiskeoppdrett AS, Blue Circle Foods & BioMar, for the trio’s partnership to create the first feed that enables farmers to raise salmon with a fish-in, fish-out ratio below 1-to-1, allowing Whole Foods Market to deliver the cleanest, most sustainable Responsibly Farmed salmon on the market to its shoppers. The salmon feed is produced with a groundbreaking process that connects existing infrastructure in the seafood industry, sourcing trimmings from established wild-caught seafood operations and utilizing oil-cleaning technology common in producing fish oil supplements.

Outstanding Quality Assurance

  • IMI Global, for its ability to consistently deliver certification services to Whole Foods Market meat suppliers.  IMI’s partnership approach to any project, coupled with its skill, expertise and timeliness, always yields results.  IMI is the most reliable and consistent certification partner for the Global Animal Partnership 5-Step Program. The certifier has worked diligently to add value to Whole Foods Market’s meat suppliers through the provision of audit bundling services.

Outstanding Exclusive Brands Product

  • Arizona Nutritional Supplements (Whole Foods Market’s Exclusive Brands) for its commitment and partnership in launching 70 new, and 118 redesigned, supplements for the company’s 365 Everyday Value® and Whole Foods Market™ brands in 2015. Whole Foods Market is proud to celebrate the 14-year partnerships as a private label supplement supplier.

Distinguished Service

  • Stevens Transport, for more than 16 years of anchor cold carrier business partnership for Whole Foods Market’s West Coast produce transportation efforts. Transporting produce is a challenging task to master–it requires pinpoint communication, committed business partners and a flexible, dynamic business process. Stevens Transport has provided all of these and more through both high-and low-growth years, and is a truly distinguished service partner.

Outstanding Innovation

  • Prakash Purohit, President Naturich Labs, Inc. for creating a first-of-its-kind plant-based, performance-driven salon hair care line that meets Whole Foods Market’s Premium Body Care Standards. The six shampoos and conditioners are blended with 97 percent plant-derived ingredients, custom natural fragrances, and they contain active levels of key plant ingredients that deliver amazing performance.

Excellence in Cheese

  • EMMI Roth USA, for the company’s commitment to shared initiatives, including providing non-GMO transparency, producing organic, premium quality products, supporting regional farmers, leading product innovation and providing team member education. EMMI Roth’s service and quality—from source to Whole Foods Market stores—is an example of excellence in partnership and product.

Outstanding Wine and Beer Supplier

  • Milton’s Distributing Company, for sourcing top quality wines for Whole Foods Market over the past several years, and for exceptional service in the beverage importation and beverage distribution channels in the U.S.  The company was also recognized for its strong set of core values, which align closely with those of Whole Foods Market, and for going beyond the call of duty to service each level of Whole Foods Market’s global and local purchasing needs.

Environmental Stewardship

  • Small Planet Foods, for going above and beyond in supporting pollinator health, and for its contributions to organizations that protect wildlife through conservation efforts.  The company is also actively and increasingly sourcing almonds from suppliers that are using more bee-friendly production methods.

Best Partnership:

  • PBS Kids, for the organization's collaboration in bringing to market brands and products for children that are created using sustainable materials with a focus on social accountability in the supply chain.  PBS Kids is a 100% nonprofit with all net profits going to support their mission of building knowledge, critical thinking, imagination and curiosity to empower children for success. They also support and contribute to Whole Kids Foundation.

Best New Product

  • Terra Chips Seed Savers/The Hain Celestial Group, for being one of Whole Foods Market’s top snack brands in partnership with Seed Savers Exchange, an organization dedicated to preserving the genetic diversity of our agricultural heritage, to sell tasty root veggie snacks made from heirloom ingredients.   Terra also works directly with farmers to plant more heirloom varietals every day.

Non-GMO Supply Chain Commitment

  • Snowville Creamery, for its trend leadership in the dairy category, feed transparency and early work to create some of the first non-GMO-fed dairy product options available for Whole Foods Market shoppers to enjoy. The company has also invested in GMO grain testing: every load of feed is analyzed for GMO contamination and has full traceability to the farms that supply feed. 

Excellence in Product Quality

  • Chelten House, for exemplifying a “win-win” partnership. The company has fully invested in meeting all of the Global Quality Assurance team’s initiatives and Whole Foods Market’s exclusive brand supplier expectations. Chelten House was also recognized for its commitment to ensuring superior, uniform flavor profiles for products made in multiple facilities.

Commodity Ingredients

  • Zeeland Farm Services, for outstanding partnership in supplying non-GMO compliant soybean meal for Whole Foods Market's national feed program.  This family-owned, Michigan-based feed processor and soybean meal/oil refiner was one of Whole Foods Market's first feed partners when the grocer started sourcing non-GMO-fed verified animal feed two years ago.  Zeeland also provides logistical services with their fleet of trucks that run on biodiesel.  Aligned with Whole Foods Market’s values, they have strong sustainability practices and green energy programs at their facilities.

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