AUSTIN, Texas – Whole Foods Market has announced the winners of the seventh annual Supplier Awards, which honor suppliers that embody the company’s mission and values through their proven commitment to quality, environmental stewardship, organic integrity, innovation and partnership. Recognized for their incredible achievements in 2018, the winners were named at a reception held in Austin, Texas on April 10.
“We’re proud to recognize these suppliers who offer outstanding products aligned with our mission, values and the high quality standards that we’ve championed for nearly 40 years,” said A.C. Gallo, President & Chief Merchandising Officer at Whole Foods Market. “This year’s honorees were selected from thousands of brands and represent the best-in-class in sourcing, industry-leading innovation and win-win partnership.”
A total of 30 awards were distributed this year, with recipients including local, regional and national brands across perishable and non-perishable product categories. Whole Foods Market named two global suppliers and 11 regional partners as “Supplier of the Year” and recognized a variety of others for outstanding achievements in various categories that reflect Whole Foods Market’s core values. The honorees were selected by Whole Foods Market category experts and buyers who work closely with our suppliers every day.
This year’s honorees include:
Global Suppliers of the Year
Global Supplier of the Year & Environmental Stewardship
Wild Planet Foods: for continuing to elevate our standards for sustainable seafood sourcing, always with the Whole Foods Market customer in mind. The first large-scale sustainably focused seafood company in the United States, Wild Planet Foods sources its tuna exclusively from pole and line catch fisheries, a method that reduces bycatch and helps preserve healthy ecosystems. Wild Planet Foods was one of the first brands to meet the rigorous requirements for the Whole Foods Market Canned Tuna Policy, setting an excellent example for our other tuna suppliers. In addition to tuna, we currently sell a variety of Wild Planet Foods products at our stores, including salmon, sardines and mackerel. Here is a video on Wild Planet Foods.
Global Supplier of the Year & Purpose Driven Empowerment
Luke’s Lobster: for working hand in hand with Whole Foods Market to build a process that guarantees that all their lobsters adhere to our sustainability requirements and animal welfare standards, ensuring ample supply for 2019 and beyond. In just three years, Luke’s Lobster has grown from a small local partner in Whole Foods Market’s North Atlantic region to the largest U.S. supplier of lobster products, including tails, claws and meat in bulk. Together, we have created unique offerings that our customers expect from us, such as the Whole Foods Market exclusive Luke’s Lobster retail boxes that launched in 2018. Here is a video on Luke’s Lobster.
Vive Organic: for its steadfast commitment to its vision and impressive growth trajectory. Focused on delivering high quality, USDA Organic wellness shots to people everywhere, Vive Organic became a huge player in the Perishable Supplement Shots category in just two years. Starting in our Southern Pacific Region in 2017, the company’s wellness shots are now available in all Whole Foods Market stores in the U.S. Despite the company’s quick expansion, Vive Organic has stayed true to its mission of positively impacting people’s lives through access to the freshest, rawest forms of the living plants the product is originated from, without compromising quality.
Driscoll’s: for continuing to find ways to improve our partnership so that together, we’re providing customers with access to more fresh, delicious berries. Driscoll’s, a worldwide leader in berry production, is committed to quality in each step of berry production and distribution. With a culture rooted in many of the same values that Whole Foods Market believes in, the company’s dedication to flavor, transparency and partnership has allowed our berry program to thrive.
Raising the Bar for Quality
Forever Cheese: for introducing new ways to improve the quality of its cheese, specialty products and the transparency of its sourcing, while reducing the environmental impact of its operations. Forever Cheese’s commitment to food safety and quality excellence has made the company an incredible partner to Whole Foods Market. Products sold at Whole Foods Market include Parmigiano Reggiano, Manchego, protected cheeses from Italy, Spain and Croatia, and specialty products, including Marcona almonds and Mediterranean chocolates.
Thompson Farms: for its dedication to animal welfare and advancing quality standards. Thompson Farms, a Whole Foods Market partner for more than 10 years, was the first pig farm certified with Step 5+ rated pork, the highest Global Animal Partnership rating. Pigs on the farm spend their entire lives on pasture, and the Thompsons have a USDA inspected processing plant on-site, which enables the family to control the quality of the pork from start to finish. Thompson Farms donates meat products to The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a nonprofit focused on ending domestic violence.
SmithFoods: for its partnership in developing Whole Foods Market 365 Everyday Value® ice cream products that offer customers unique, delicious flavors while upholding our quality standards. A family owned business in Orrville, OH that sources rBST-Free milk from local dairy farmers, Smith Farms helped us create our 365 Non-Dairy Almond Milk Ice Cream program, including flavors like Berry Chantilly and Mocha Java Fudge, and reinvigorate our 365 Ice Cream Program that consists of 22 unique flavors like Chocolate Valencia Orange, Coffee & Doughnuts and Toasted Coconut & Black Sesame.
OSI Industries LLC: for constantly producing innovative meat offerings, such as brisket and lemon-herbed turkey, with new flavor profiles and exceptional quality. Additionally, OSI is impressively nimble and has a proven ability to react quickly to increased, last minute demand, ensuring customers have access to the products they’re looking for and expect to see at Whole Foods Market.
Nature’s Path: for its unparalleled commitment to bringing high quality organic products, from cereal to granola and oatmeal, to market, rooted in its mission to leave the earth better than we found it. Considered “pioneers of the organic movement” and a Whole Foods Market partner for more than 30 years, Nature’s Path continues to expand into new product categories without sacrificing quality and dedication to organic standards.
Awe Sum Organics: for its staunch commitment to organic agriculture and ensuring great tasting organic fruit supplies are plentiful. Awe Sum Organics has been supplying to Whole Foods Market since the 1980s. The company’s founder, David Posner, was one of the first people to bring organically grown fruits and vegetables to market. Recognizing early on that increasing consumer awareness and demand for organic produce required that organic products be made available in traditional grocery store formats, David sought out new growing regions outside the U.S. that allowed him to create a steady supply. Awe Sum Organics brought the first organic New Zealand apples to the U.S. during the summer and developed a new growing method that enables our customers to access organic grapes from Peru during the winter.
Purpose Driven Empowerment
Cocokind: for providing clean, conscious and accessible skincare that empowers women. With most of its products USDA certified organic, Cocokind has helped set the industry standard for clean beauty, advancing the Whole Foods Market standards for body care products. The Cocokind Impact Foundation provides financial grants to female entrepreneurs in health, wellness and sustainability fields who are focused on creating social impact through business.
Rookie of the Year
SmartSweets: for reinventing the classic gummy bear and disrupting the candy category in a much-needed manner. In about one year, SmartSweets catapulted from a small, Canadian start-up to one of the true growth engines of the Candy category at Whole Foods Market. Free from added sugar, sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners, SmartSweets gummy bears allow customers to feel good about eating candy.
Bonnie’s Jams: for working tirelessly to create an innovative new jam flavor, Bourbon Berry, to support the brand’s national launch. Since the company’s inception, Bonnie Shershow and her team have been producing jams with non-GMO ingredients that burst with flavor.
Alpine Fresh Inc.: for bringing fresh fruits and vegetables from its farms to our customers at a great value. Alpine Fresh offers excellent service and quality – and our customers recognize their great products, as evidenced by Alpine’s exponential growth in blueberries and asparagus sales.
Tsar Nicoulai Caviar: for its critical role in developing Whole Foods Market’s caviar aquaculture standards and educating the company on the intricacies of raising sturgeon. Their caviar is produced and selected without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, GMOs or synthetic preservatives. In addition to its commitment to sustainable cultivation of caviar, Tsar Nicoulai Caviar is equally as committed to preserving the environment. It has implemented innovative ways to conserve water and energy and plans to fully operate on solar power in the near future.
Service & Partnership
4 x 400 Consulting: for its invaluable expertise and mentorship on a number of important and complex topics. Over the last 3 years, the 4 x 400 team has provided critical guidance to Whole Foods Market Team Members, helping Whole Foods Market reach business goals while providing the highest quality products and services to our customers.
Inno-Pak, LLC: for its continued support on various time-sensitive product development initiatives. Inno-Pak consistently delivers packaging solutions that meet all of our requirements and goes above and beyond to help us ensure any packaging transitions are executed seamlessly.
Local & Regional Suppliers of the Year
Aramouni International, Inc. & Nature’s Healthy Gourmet, Inc. (Port St. Lucie, FL): for continued eagerness to partner on new products and improve existing products. A core supplier of our local program for over a decade, Aramouni’s products, including food bar salads, entrees, bento-style snack boxes, hummus, dips and spreads, can be found in our stores.
Inspire Pure Botanicals (Philadelphia, PA): for leading innovation in our bath and body care offerings through sustainable, handmade soaps, sugar scrub cubes, shower steamers, pre-packed bulk shea butters, cocoa butters and beeswax. Owned by Jacquellyne Hengst, an organic industry advocate and success coach, Inspire Pure Botanicals has developed various exclusive products for Whole Foods Market. It created custom soaps for all of the region’s new stores that opened in 2018, including the whimsical, eye-catching “Unicorn Wishes” bulk soap and popular Crystal Soap Rocks.
FILLO’S Americas Made (Geneva, IL): for its dedication to creating delicious, easy-to-prepare packaged beans, without sacrificing bold flavors, freshness and the brand’s authenticity. In the last three years, FILLO’S successfully launched new products, updated its packaging, received non-GMO certification and supported instore promotions and product demonstrations. FILLO’S shares the Whole Foods Market commitment to community, frequently mentoring smaller brands in its hometown state of Illinois.
North Atlantic Region
UTEC, Inc. (Lowell, MA): for becoming an innovator for youth services, a conscientious contributor to the community and an excellent example of an organization creating opportunity and abundance. Since 2016, UTEC, originally known as United Teen Equality Center, has been selling hand-crafted wooden cutting boards at Whole Foods Market stores in the region. UTEC seeks to ignite and nurture the ambition of their most disconnected young people to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success.
Northern California Region
Humphry Slocombe (San Francisco, CA): for gaining a devoted customer following in such a short period of time through its passion for ice cream, inventive flavors and commitment to connecting with its customers in unique, fun ways. Every flavor that is exclusive to Whole Foods Market has quickly climbed to #1 in sales in the ice cream category, which is not surprising with innovative flavors like Hong Kong Milk Tea, Golden Milk & Gingerbread, Yuzu Cream and Coconut & Shoyu Caramel.
Crown Finish Caves (Brooklyn, NY): for bringing mouthwatering, high quality cheeses to our customers from an underground cheese cave in Brooklyn. Owned by a husband and wife team who converted a brewery that dated back to the 1850s into a cheese aging facility, Crown Finish Caves has partnered with Whole Foods Market on an exclusive cheese called Windham Cheddar, as well as a variety of smaller batch, one-time only exclusive products. Like Whole Foods Market, Crown Finish Caves also seeks to create a community gathering space, hosting bi-monthly concerts in one of the cave’s tunnels.
Pacific Northwest Region
Woodlot (Vancouver, British Columbia): for meeting increasing demand for its premium, natural home and body products without compromising its mission and the integrity of its products. Sharing our customer-obsessed mindset, Woodlot’s founders care deeply about the quality of ingredients they use in the candles, soaps and skincare products they supply to Whole Foods Market. All of its ingredients are ethically sourced and rooted in the philosophy that beauty and wellness should be intentional, inclusive and natural.
Rocky Mountain Region
SoulRise Tribe (Salt Lake City, UT): for filling the void of sustainable, eco-friendly, ethically made in the U.S. clothing items. Founded in 2016, SoulRise Tribe shares our commitment of giving back to our communities. The company donates 20 percent of its profits to a variety of local charities that support employment opportunities, learning gardens in schools and community gardens and access to healthy food.
La Farm Bakery (Cary, NC): for its passion for old world artisan bread baking and its commitment to tradition, quality and health. Since 2007, La Farm Bakery has been an excellent partner to Whole Foods Market. A native of France, Master Baker and James Beard “Outstanding Baker” semifinalist, Lionel Vatinet has been baking since he was a teenager and has become a steward of knowledge, from the quality of grains to fermentation and technique. He and his wife Missy operate the company under a strong set of values based on nourishing the community and maintaining the local integrity of the ingredients in their products. La Farm Bakery establishes close relationships with its local farmers to grow grains that nourish not just the customer, but the land and farmers who grow them.
South Pacific Region
Pensieve Foods LLC (Los Angeles, CA): for making high quality, raw, vegan, non-GMO and allergen-friendly foods that are easily accessible for our customers to enjoy. Vegan products under the EatGud label, such as falafel wraps, are popular items in our grab-and-go cases.
Val Verde Vegetable Co., Inc. (McAllen, TX): for developing a cutting-edge farming and ranching operation that supplies Whole Foods Market with more than 50 produce items year-round. Val Verde has recently expanded the production of organic produce locally in Texas to meet our growing customer demand. From organic cucumbers and cauliflower to cilantro, kale and watermelon radishes, this third generation Texas farming family is an incredible partner.