- Nicole Casey, regional perishable product coordinator at Whole Foods Market, on the global retailer's industry-supporting approach
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HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR RETAILERS – WHATEVER THEIR SIZE – TO SUPPORT EMERGING BRANDS?
We are constantly looking for interesting and innovative additions to our range and welcome information from producers and suppliers who believe that their product is suitable for our business here in the UK.
Whole Foods Market is built upon win-win partnerships and long-term business relationships that develop from both parties being able to share in open and honest feedback. We always aim to treat suppliers with respect, fairness, and integrity and look for the same in return. We also actively seek out partnerships that share our concern for education, social responsibility and environmental impact. We have found that the most successful, long term relationships are made up of integrity, honesty, transparency and consistent open communication.
In addition to ensuring we partner with brands that align with our values and culture, any product we consider adding to our shelves must meet our industry leading Quality Standards. These standards are researched, evaluated and constantly updated by our Global Quality Standards Team and ensure that we stay ahead of the market in understanding the potential impact that certain ingredients have on both our health and our planet.
HOW ABOUT SOURCING FROM LOCAL BRANDS. WHAT VALUE DOES THIS HAVE FOR SHOPPERS, THE PRODUCER AND THE RETAIL BUSINESS ITSELF?
As well as ensuring our products contain the highest quality ingredients, Whole Foods Market is committed to stocking local products. This June, Whole Foods Market are holding a local product pitch day encouraging anyone who is London based and has a product they are trying to get to market, to enter. The pitch day process gives brands the opportunity to be mentored by Whole Foods Market’s experienced buyers and the chance to test the market in our seven London stores.
This program has been created to give small London-based businesses the chance to be the next big thing. Whole Foods Market offers brands a small number of stores to test the market as well as food focused customers who research the ingredients they consume, to make informed decisions about the products they buy. Our customers are often seeking new products for specific reasons, such as sustainability, ingredients, welfare standards or special diets. By supporting local business and buying local, we can help ensure a strong future for local products. Supporting local farmers, growers and producers helps connect the local community to the people who produce the foods we consume. It also helps keep us connected to the growing seasons and to the unique flavours and diversity of local crops and creations. Minimizing handling and transportation costs gives farmers, growers and producers maximum return on their investment. And most of the money spent on local production stays in the community, helping to boost the local economy.
WHAT EFFECT WOULD YOU LIKE WFM’S APPROACH TO HAVE ON THE WIDER INDUSTRY?
From the very beginning, Whole Foods Market has supported local makers and growers. We are committed to the growth of small businesses; our mission is to bring the highest-quality food to everyone who loves food and supporting local is a huge part of this. For many start up brands, being stocked somewhere like WFM is an aspiration and we have a history for launching many brands that have gone on to become nationwide brands. We hope to see this approach trickle down to the wider industry, there is a growing trend for entrepreneurship, particularly amongst Londoners, and we hope to see this championed.
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