AUSTIN, TEXAS — Whole Foods Market, a business owned by, Inc., is accepting applications for its Local and Emerging Accelerator Program, an initiative that launched last year offering mentorship and education, as well as potential financial support, to small and emerging brands.  Participants also may be considered for placement on shelves at local or regional Whole Foods Market stores at the conclusion of the six-month program.

“Since our start more than four decades ago, we’ve been empowering small, local and emerging producers,” said Alyssa Vescio, senior vice president of merchandising at Whole Foods Market. “We’re thrilled to continue this important part of our legacy through the Local and Emerging Accelerator Program. Our first cohort of nine local producers successfully graduated from last year’s inaugural program, and three have already launched in select Whole Foods Market stores. We could not be more excited to begin our search for a new and innovative group of suppliers we can support.”

Applications will be accepted through April 7 at Selected participants will be asked to attend weekly virtual classes for a period of 8 to 10 weeks beginning in August and will have one meeting per month with a local Whole Foods Market Forager.

Food brands selected to participate in the program last year included Buns Bakery, CHKP Foods, Coyotas, Good Girl Chocolate, Numa, Onana Foods, Pizzazza and Theo’s Plant Based.

“Whole Foods Market’s Local and Emerging Accelerator Program offered CHKP an invaluable experience to learn, grow and advance our mission,” said Noam Sharon, co-founder of CHKP Foods, a maker of dairy-free yogurt formulated with chickpeas. “The expertise and insights provided by Whole Foods Market taught CHKP what makes a successful emerging brand, and we could not be more grateful for the leadership, confidence and support the team provided. Now that our product is on Whole Foods Market shelves, we are putting our learnings into practice to drive in-store engagement. We thank Whole Foods Market for this incredible opportunity, and wholeheartedly recommend LEAP to any interested supplier.”