AUSTIN, Texas–Whole Foods Market announced participants in its newest cohorts today for two tracks of the Local and Emerging Accelerator Program (LEAP): Early Growth and On the Verge. The LEAP initiative launched in 2022 with the inaugural Early Growth cohort, and continues to advance Whole Foods Market’s core value of seeking win-win partnerships with suppliers with access to tailored educational programming and one-on-one mentorship for local brands. Participants in the Early Growth program will be eligible to receive a $25,000 equity investment from a donor-advised fund managed by the Austin Community Foundation, with proceeds benefiting Whole Foods Market’s private operating Foundations.
The Early Growth cohort is made up of ten innovative food brands who are not yet sold on the grocer’s shelves. Once the 12-week curriculum is complete, each supplier’s products will also be considered for placement on the shelves of Whole Foods Market stores in their home city or region. This year, Whole Foods Market received more than 1,000 new applicants for the Early Growth cohort, doubling applications from the first year with 100% growth. The selected 2023 Early Growth brand participants include: Kinship Milk Tea, Ruby Jean’s Juicery, Tiny Sprouts Food, Gringuita Cookies, Jaju Pierogi, La Rossi Pizza, Lazy Food Co., Seed to Surf, Diaspora Co., and Bam.
As part of the 2023 programming, Whole Foods Market introduced a second cohort, LEAP: On the Verge to expand the opportunity to current local and emerging Whole Foods Market suppliers. These suppliers are currently sold in select stores, already demonstrate strong growth potential, and are poised for success. On the Verge brands are also considered innovative in trends, flavors, community engagement or sustainability and demonstrate mission and values which align with Whole Foods Market’s own core values.
On the Verge participants are selected from a group of suppliers that were nominated by Whole Foods Market Merchants and Foragers. Suppliers selected for the 2023 On the Verge initiative include: fitppl, Better Chew, Little Sesame, Fila Manila, Misha’s Kind Foods, 12 Tides, Nana Joes Granola, The Pizza Cupcake, Nguyen Coffee Supply, and Bright Endeavors.
“We are thrilled to welcome ten exceptional local producers from all over the country into our second LEAP: Early Growth cohort,” said Alyssa Vescio, Senior Vice President of Merchandising for Whole Foods Market. “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. These are truly the brands to watch!”
Brands seeking more information on LEAP can visit the Information for Potential Suppliers page on Whole Foods Market’s website.
About Whole Foods Market
For more than 40 years, Whole Foods Market has been the world’s leading natural and organic foods retailer. As the first certified organic national grocer, Whole Foods Market has more than 500 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. To learn more about Whole Foods Market, please visit https://media.wholefoodsmarket.com/.