Whole Foods Commits $25 Million to Local Producer Loan Program
Whole Foods Market is loaning millions to ensure that even more products from local growers, producers and artisans make it to the shelves of their 370-plus stores around the globe.
The retailer has announced a $25 million boost to its popular Local Producer Loan Program. Since the program's 2007 inception, Whole Foods has aided 155 local producers with $10 million through nearly 200 low-interest loans.
The large retailer says the expansion was encouraged by the success of those original recipients.
“Expanding the Local Producer Loan Program is a direct result of the innovations and successes of our loan recipients,” said Betsy Foster, Whole Foods Market global vice president of growth and business development. “By playing a role in advancing new ideas, growing businesses and realizing dreams, Whole Foods Market stays connected with both our neighborhood producers and our global food community.”
Companies who have expanded with the Whole Foods loan range from Progress Coffee in Austin, TX, to RubyJewel, a Portland, OR-based, hand-crafted ice creamery, to an organic nutrition bar line from Dr. Melina Jampolis in San Francisco, CA. Farms like Thistle Farms got in on the act, and many of the recipients like kale-chip maker Brad's Raw Foods in Bucks County, PA were able to rise from small-town farmers markets to the shelves of Whole Foods locations in bigger cities.
"Because I didn’t have any money, [Whole Foods] lent me money to build a bigger place and buy some equipment," Brad's Raw Foods owner Brad Gruno said.
"They help out a lot of small entrepreneurs. Seriously. Nobody else does that."
Whole Foods said its initial $10 million in funding also supported pioneering projects in biodynamic farming, non-GMO animal feed, pollinator health and sustainable packaging. The company didn't wait long to add the $25 million—it recently announced that a $400,000 loan to San Francisco's WholeSoy & Co. pushed it past the $10 million level. WholeSoy produces non-GMO, organic, vegan, gluten-free soy yogurt.
"After raising most of the funds required, this additional $400,000 will help us realize our dream of having our own dairy-free yogurt facility,” said Ted Nordquist, CEO of WholeSoy & Co.
“Whole Foods Market truly cares about our success and worked closely with us to support our re-entry into the marketplace."