Whole Foods Market announced Jan. 2 that its Local Producer Loan Program has 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. The Local Producer Loan Program has provided 184 loans to 155 companies since its inception in 2007.
In providing easier access to loans for budding food businesses, the program’s first $10 million in funding has not only enabled growth, but also supported pioneering projects in biodynamic farming, non-GMO animal feed, pollinator health and sustainable packaging.
“Expanding the Local Producer Loan Program is a direct result of the innovations and successes of our loan recipients,” Betsy Foster, Whole Foods Market global vice president of growth and business development, said in a press release. “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.”
With the additional commitment of $15 million in funding, the company welcomes new loan applications from producers seeking to expand their businesses. Whether applicants offer a distinctive artisan food product or a new hydroponic farming facility, Whole Foods Market loan administrators, buyers and local foragers work closely with business owners to drive growth and success.
“The most rewarding part of the loan process is building relationships and sharing ideas for progress,” Dwight Richmond, Whole Foods Market global grocery purchasing coordinator, said in the press release. “Whether it’s improving the business plan, discussing market trends or connecting people with new partners in our network, it’s exciting to see the results of great teamwork combined with monetary support.”
While some loan recipients sell products in Whole Foods Market stores, such as organic vegetable farmers, grass-fed cattle ranchers, natural body care producers and gluten-free bakers, many other recipients operate businesses that support the natural foods industry. Additionally, 43 companies 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.
Previous loan recipients have used their loans for investing in new equipment, expanding production facilities, adapting to more sustainable practices or converting to organic production.