Whole Foods Market, the world’s largest retailer of natural and organic foods, probably never envisioned branching out as a loan company.
But, since 2007, Whole Foods has been lending money to mostly small, local food producers that would otherwise have a hard time staying in business. Its Whole Foods Market Local Producer Loan Program is especially timely with the economy in the doldrums and credit squeezed to the breaking point.
To date, the grocery chain has loaned more than $2.5 million, according to a story by Sarah Terry-Cobo on GreenBiz.com.
Jenny Brown, the program administrator, says Whole Foods is committed to fund up to $10 million. She told Terry-Cobo â€˜Our local producers are part of what customers say they value a lot; and they are very valuable to us.â€™
Terms vary with each individual loan, but the interest rates average around six percent, Brown says. Unlike traditional loans, Whole Foods charges no closing fees, no fees for early repayment, and no application fees. Maximum loan amount is $100,000, but there is no loan minimum.
Whole Foods has loaned funds to producers of such products as organic ice cream, vegan granola snacks, pasta sauce, honey, and grass-fed beef.
Spokespersons for Whole Foods say that, as far as they can tell, they’re the only retailer offering this kind of service.
But as the economy continues to struggle, we may see more collaboration of this nature. It’s something to keep an eye on.
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