On the first Wednesday of every other month, I have a column called Wednesdays at Whole Foods. It showcases the most interesting news, products, store events, and happenings at the company.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SOAP
Have you ever heard of Dark Rye?
No, not the bread. The James Beard award-winning online magazine from Whole Foods Market that is putting out incredibly compelling content with cutting edge design. If you haven’t seen it yet, definitely take a look. You’ll be surprised, and very impressed, at what you discover.
In the recently released issue of Dark Rye called The Body Issue, we are introduced to Olowan’djo Tchala, the founder of Alaffia, an African company producing super-high quality lotions, body and face washes, soaps, and other body care products.
Olowan’djo Tchala started the company as a way to support communities and employ women in his home country of Togo. All of the shea and coconut products sourced for his products are fair trade, and the shea is harvested and processed in Togo by a cooperative of women who use a traditional, centuries-old technique. Using this process means keeping African traditions and culture alive while simultaneously processing ingredients without harmful chemicals.
Sales of Alaffia products not only provide jobs, but they help fund projects such as the construction of community centers and giving bicycles to kids to help them get to school.
In early February, Whole Foods Market is launching an exclusive soap with Alaffia called Good Soap, and a percentage of each sale will be donated to the Whole Planet Foundation.
The video below, which was produced by Dark Rye, tells the company’s amazing story and demonstrates how business can really change the world.
SUPPORTING THE GROWTH
Compared to industries such as high technology, the amount of investment capital dedicated to young and growing organic food companies is very small. Even though this is beginning to change – I’ve come across several new funds over the past few months that are investing in this space – access to capital still remains a problem.
Understanding that small and local food producers are essential to the long-term health of its company, Whole Foods Market has taken an active role in helping to provide necessary capital.
Last month, the company announced that its Local Producer Loan Program (LPLP) reached the initial goal of funding $10 million in low-interest loans to local and independent food businesses, and has now committed up to $25 million in funding. So, this means an additional $15 million dollars will be loaned out.
Since inception, the LPLP has provided 184 loans to 155 companies. Not only has this enabled growth, but it has also supported pioneering projects in biodynamic farming, non-GMO animal feed, pollinator health, and sustainable packaging. 43 companies that have received loans are owned by women and an additional 36 are co-owned by women.
Loan recipients must meet Whole Foods Market’s quality standards, use the funds for expansion, and have a viable business plan. Typical loans range from $1,000 to $100,000 and have fixed low-interest rates.
If your company is interested in applying for a loan from the LPLP, more information can be found by clicking HERE.
SHOP AND SHINE
If you’re in need of organic groceries, you can go to Whole Foods Market. If you’re in need of a shoe shine, you can go to…..Whole Foods Market???
Well, if you’re near the 2001 Market Street location in San Francisco, this statement holds true.
Along with a Paleo bar and newsstand, the 2001 Market Street store now has a shoe shine service. Who knew?
A BRIGHTER VALENTINE’S DAY
As a result of the large number of Whole Trade flower purchases at the company, particularly with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, Whole Foods Market has funded more than $6 million in premiums to support improvement programs for floral workers and their communities in Ecuador, Colombia and Costa Rica.
So far, those extra dollars have funded first homes for families, scholarships for children, community art programs, medical and dental treatments, and an overall improvement in the quality of life for farm workers, their families and their communities.
In addition to funding community improvement projects, the company’s Whole Trade flowers are grown in a way that ensures: fair prices to producers, safe and healthy working conditions for farm workers, environmentally-friendly growing practices, and high quality products.
If you ever read the NYT’s very grim and disturbing profile of flower workers in Latin America, you’ll be appreciative that the Whole Trade premium program is working to reverse this situation.
ON THE SHELVES
There are many new products on the company’s store shelves that are exclusive to Whole Foods Market and cannot be found elsewhere.
Elizabeth Stein, founder of Purely Elizabeth, has introduced the only organic, vegan and Non-GMO Project verified oatmeal, or ancient grain hot cereal, on the market.
Each is a unique blend of Non-GMO Project verified oats and ancient grains, such as quinoa, amaranth, kamut, buckwheat, flax, hemp or millet. The three flavors – original, 6-grain, and cranberry pumpkin – offer whole grain flavor and hearty texture with no sugar added.
As I predicted in my Top 5 Organic Food Trends for 2014, yogurt is an area where we will be seeing a lot of innovation this year.
One perfect example of this is a French-style yogurt from Saint Benoît which comes in glass bottles. Yes, yogurt in glass bottles.
This artisanal yogurt, which is available in plain and vanilla, is mild in flavor and made in small batches with milk from Jersey, grass-fed cows and is packaged in recyclable glass. Based in Sonoma County, California, Saint Benoit is a recipient of Whole Foods Market’s Local Producer Loan Program.
AtlantaFresh Artisan Creamery, another recipient of the Local Producer Loan Program, is producing Greek yogurt also made from grass-fed cows.
Yet what makes this yogurt so unique is the timely manner in which it is made. Within 30 hours, the milk goes straight from the cow and is produced into yogurt, making this product ultra-fresh. AtlantaFresh is available in plain (fat-free or whole milk), peach-ginger, black cherry, mixed berry, vanilla caramel, tropical sweet heat, karma java, and pumpkin pie.
Bearitos has rolled out four varieties of pita chips – sea salt, multi-grain, bruschetta, and lemon & garlic – and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of these crunchy, Non-GMO Project verified chips is being donated to the World Wildlife Fund Sun Bear initiative. This is part of the company’s pledge to donate $150,000 through 2015 to the World Wildlife Fund, with the goal of helping to protect various species of animals around the world.
While we’re in the thick of winter and our immune systems are as vulnerable as ever, let’s not forget about the healing power of tea. To help you out, Traditional Medicinals has introduced dandelion and everyday detox pharmacopoeial-grade herb teas. Both are certified organic and Non-GMO Project verified.