Whole Foods Market is the largest natural and organic grocer in the United States. The Austin based company runs about 460 stores across the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom. With over $5 billion in sales every month, there’s no wonder local farmers and vendors want to get their products on Whole Foods’ shelves.
After Amazon recently announced the acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7B, there is even more incentive for small and mid-sized businesses to build a relationship. Who knows? Maybe working with Whole Foods can lead to a nationwide deal or an opportunity to sell directly to Amazon. But you won’t know until you try. These are the steps to get your product into Whole Foods.
Whole Foods loves local vendors
If you are reading this, odds are you have been in a Whole Foods Market store at some point in the past. The stores are high-end supermarkets with a focus on organic and natural products. Much of the natural product community prefers locally sourced produce and products, and Whole Foods has embraced this as part of its core product sourcing. Whole Foods stores proudly show off local products to customers walking through the busy stores.
Whole Foods buyers use a system called RangeMe to connect with vendors around the world. Primary categories include grocery (dry goods, dairy, frozen, and general merchandise), whole body (supplements, body care, apparel, lifestyle), prepared foods, produce, meat, seafood, and specialty, which includes beer, wine, and cheese. If your company’s products fall into any of these categories, you may be a perfect fit to sell at Whole Foods.
Get your product up to Whole Foods quality standards
Whole Foods doesn’t take just any old product. To ensure its customers are always satisfied with each purchase, the company publishes product quality standards that vendors must reach and customers can count on.
This includes a deep dive into the ingredients of each product. When you submit a potential product to Whole Foods, be prepared to list out every single ingredient you use including its source and organic status. Here are some other standards to look out for:
- Products must be free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.
- Foods should be fresh, wholesome, and safe to eat.
- Whole Foods seeks out and promotes organically grown foods.
- Products should be in line with Whole Foods’ mission of providing food and nutritional products that support health and well-being.
Most of these standards are something most producers strive for anyway. However, getting rid of all artificial ingredients and hydrogenated fats is not simple for everyone. But if you can do it and get on Whole Foods’ shelves, it could be a worthwhile.
Sign your company up on RangeMe
Whole Foods uses RangeMe to connect producers with buyers. You cannot do business with Whole Foods as a seller until you register, so once you know your product meets Whole Foods’ guidelines, head to RangeMe to sign up.
You will start by creating a profile for your company and each product. Having your product details on hand will make the product creation process much easier. Once your products are in the system, the waiting game begins. Keep in mind that just because you upload your products, there is no guarantee they will be selected. You may never get a response. The better fit your product is for Whole Foods, the more likely it will be that you’ll hear from a buyer and get your products sold.
Whole Foods buyers log into RangeMe from their own accounts which they use to find and order products. When the buyer thinks a product is a good match for their stores, they will connect with you through the platform and get the deal in place.
It never hurts to say hi to the local manager
While the official channel to get into Whole Foods is RangeMe, don’t discount other options to get onto the radar of your local store. Visit Whole Foods stores in your area and make a point to say hello to the manager. Tell them about your local business and why you think your product is a good match.
In the worst-case scenario, the manager will direct you to RangeMe and you will be right where you are today. In the best-case scenario, the store manager will be impressed by your product and pass on a good word to the buyer.
Going in to say hello costs nothing more than a little time, but the relationship you build could lead to wonderful results for your business. There is so much to gain and so little to lose that a visit to your local stores should be a no brainer.
Grow your business through partnerships and organic sales
You should never ignore direct sales to customers through your company website and other means, but building relationships with companies like Whole Foods can take your business to the next level.
While it has struggled to keep costs under control in recent years, Whole Foods is a solid, stable company that almost any vendor can be excited about. If you think your product is a good fit for Whole Foods, wait no longer. Build relationships, submit your products, and get on track to sell at Whole Foods today.
This article was originally written on July 17, 2017 and updated on January 27, 2021.