April 22, 2014

7 Things To Know Before You Approach Whole Foods Market With Your Artisan Food Products

getting my product into whole foodsWhole Foods Market tends to be the Holy Grail for many food artisans who are anxious to grow their companies.  They believe that if they can get into Whole Foods Market then that means their business has ‘made it.’  Denise Breyley, Whole Foods Market Local Forager for the Pacific Northwest region, shared these tips of things to keep in mind before you approach your local buyer:

  1. Does your product meet Whole Foods’ Market’s quality standards?  You can learn about those standards here.
  2. Do you know how people are going to respond to your product and your packaging?  Farmers’ Markets are a great way to test this out.  What’s important is that producers have a clear understanding how of their product is able to differentiate itself from similar products that are on the shelves in that same category.  For example, what might be a differentiator for Whole Foods Market is if the product is organic, if it’s traceable back to the exact farmers, etc.
  3. Speaking of packaging, make sure that your packaging looks professional and will catch the eye of consumers.  Your packaging should contain the same elements, such as nutritional labeling and UPC’s, as similar products within that same category.
  4. Understand your pricing model and make sure that you’re allowing for appropriate margins for yourself and for Whole Foods Market.
  5. Within your pricing strategy you also want to allow for a promotions budget so that you can help Whole Foods Market sell your product to consumers.
  6. Do you have a food safety and product recall plan in place?  What about product liability insurance?
  7. Make sure you have the infrastructure not just to create product for Whole Foods Market but also to produce invoices, handle shipping and/or distribution, and be available for in-store demonstrations.

Lastly, remember that Whole Foods Market does want to help small brands succeed but in order for this to happen you need to be open to feedback and willing to work with Whole Foods Market’s buyers to maximize your products’ chance of success in their stores.

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3 comments on “7 Things To Know Before You Approach Whole Foods Market With Your Artisan Food Products

  • chris Lianga on said:

    As much as all of these points are important, as a company that attempted to get into Whole Food Market, the most important factor to getting in is having a distributor they can deal with. This was the case in Toronto anyway. As I had learned from one of the Manager’s one of their largest markets in Toronto, they will not even look at your product unless you have a distributor. They were helpful in suggesting a distributor they deal with and trust (ie. Ontario Natural Food Co-op), but when I perused their criteria for acceptance and the percentage they expected from your company I lost interest. I just didn’t have the money to dole out to a company nor trusted a company that would never know my product better than me. I decided, the only companies and food outlets I’d deal with were those who dealt with company owners/proprietors.

    • Jennifer on said:

      I actually asked Denise Breyley about the distributor question and she said that Whole Foods Market does work with some vendors direct and not through a distributor. Now that may depend on what type of products you produce and your region as well. You’re right though that working with a distributor is not a decision to be taken into lightly because of the costs involved and the representation of your product and brand and ultimately, as you found, it may simply not be the right decision for your company. It’s not always that entrepreneurs have the foresight to say no to a big account because of that impact a distributor might have so I have to commend you for that!

    • Ryan Parker on said:

      I am glad to hear they were interested in pointing you in the right direction. Fortunately, WFM will buy direct from producers, even without a distributor. It really does depend on the store (some Team Leaders would prefer to deal directly with distributors, it removes a lot of headache). It will also depend on the region as well. I have interviewed many artisan food producers who have walked into the store, talked with a Team Leader and had their products in the store within a month (that all depends on how fast you hustle, and how far along you already are).
      I hope this was helpful.