For most makers, getting their products on the shelves at Whole Foods is the whole-y grail. But like everything else these days, the process has been slightly altered. We spoke with a few Foodboro members who recently launched in Whole Foods to learn first-hand what it’s like being on the shelves, and off.

Andrew Suzuka, the sauce boss behind Otamot Foods, chatted with us on Instagram Live about his experience launching Otamot tomato sauces nationally in Whole Foods, including an exclusive spicy tomato sauce flavor. Yet even amongst this big win, Otamot is wooing customers through an Ambassador program where members can try new products and share discounts, proving that out-of-store awareness is crucial.

(Note the video has some tech difficulties in the beginning but fast forwards to a minute or so!) 

Renewal Mill, just landed at Whole Foods in Northern California this month with one case per store of their pure okara flour and 1-to-1 baking flour. But Renewal Mill hopes the home baking interest will drive faster velocities of the product. While in-store demos and shelf-talkers are no longer in place, Renewal Mill has been working with their buyer to create brand and product videos that are used to educate Whole Foods staff at different stores.

“We’re grateful that they’ve allowed this opportunity for sharing!” said Caroline Cotto, co-founder at Renewal Mill. “We’re also using some of our marketing budget to do paid ads that drive our target customers to Whole Foods stores as we know our performance early on is important.”

And since discovery is most likely NOT going to take place in the physical store, Renewal Mill is smartly testing ways to build velocity via digital channels. To that end, the company is promoting their Whole Foods launch on their social channels, partnering with influencers to spread the word, and increasing research into who the Whole Foods customer is.

Humble Nut Butter is now on the shelves of Whole Foods Midwest markets and while it’s only been a short time since their launch there, founder John Waller said Whole Foods has promised to be patient regarding performance given the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

“As for velocity expectations, they have indicated this is an unprecedented time and they will take that into account when evaluating performance, ” Waller explained. “In general, they seemed empathetic to the challenges we’re all facing and vowed to be patient.”

In the meantime, Waller reports that workers at the store level are very receptive what Humble Nut Butter is about, the regional buying team is working to create local vendor profiles and some stores even placed follow-up orders right away. He also added that the on-boarding process took multiple months. Just something to keep in mind.

Despite these entries into Whole Foods, makers must continue to go deeper on digital efforts, especially as the physical experience of shopping at Whole Foods changes with customers spending less time walking up and down the aisles. The good news is that Whole Foods is very much aware of the ongoing challenges, is working closely with makers, and perhaps, giving them more time to achieve velocity.

But what happens AFTER you get into Whole Foods? Well, it doesn’t always go as planned. Use your Foodboro Members login to listen to an exclusive podcast with Thi Lam of Keepers Coffee where he tells his Whole Foods story.

Have an experience with Whole Foods you want to share? Send it to us at [email protected]m