Whole Foods Market Selects Kinship Milk Tea for Its 2023 Local and Emerging Accelerator Program

Whole Foods Market named 20 food and beverage companies as participants in its “Local and Emerging Accelerator Program (LEAP): Early Growth and On the Verge,” and one innovative tea company is among the bunch – Kinship Milk Tea.

“Early Growth and “On the Verge” are two separate tracks of the Whole Foods Market program. The LEAP initiative launched in 2022 with the inaugural Early Growth group, and it continues to advance Whole Foods Market’s core value of seeking win-win partnerships with suppliers, offering access to tailored educational programming and one-on-one mentorship.

Participants in the recent Early Growth program are eligible to receive a $25,000 equity investment from a donor-advised fund managed by the Austin Community Foundation, with proceeds benefiting Whole Foods Market’s private operating Foundations.

'An Absolute Dream'

“We are thrilled to be selected for the Whole Foods Market Local and Emerging Accelerator Program as a 2023 cohort member,” said Caitlin Cash, founder of Kinship. “It's an absolute dream to be amongst such vibrant, charismatic and driven founders – each with their own unique story to tell. I can't wait to cheer for our other cohort members during the program and long afterwards.”

Cash added: “We are honored to learn and work closely with Whole Foods Market’s Local Forager team over the coming weeks to further understand the interconnectedness of the retail environment – from internal teams working together to suppliers and farmers. It's rare to find a company as large as Whole Foods Market that treats every single person in their network with integrity, fairness and importance. We are so grateful for their continued focus on local and emerging brands and for believing in all of us. They have encouraged us to share our stories and are helping us find our voice! Kinship Milk Tea can't wait to represent Texas in this cohort, and we are honored to have the business based out of such a thriving, supportive, and innovative city.”

Caitlin Cash Founder Kinship Milk Tea - Whole Foods Accelerator Program
Caitlin Cash, founder of Kinship Milk Tea (Photo: Courtesy of Kinship Milk Tea)

Kinship is an Austin-based ready-to-drink vegan milk tea with a focus on tea forward flavors and refreshing drinkability.

“We want the tea to be the star of the show – the majority of the bottle is strongly brewed loose leaf tea, and then there’s a splash of oat milk and homemade simple syrup made from raw cane sugar,” explained Cash. “Every bottle is handcrafted in Austin, Texas and sent out to stores the same day; we are proud to provide high quality vegan milk tea to all of our local partners.”

Cash shared that Kinship’s mission is connection through common ground. “When I think of a bottle of Kinship, I think of it as a distillation of experiences and people that we have met along the way during our lives,” she said. “I want it to evoke a sense of nostalgia and make you feel something. Life is messy and imperfect, and so are we. We are focused on community and connectedness, on slowing down and being present.”

Kinship Milk Tea - Whole Foods Accelerator Program - Milk Tea Recipe
Kinship Milk Tea line-up (Photo: Courtesy of Kinship Milk Tea)

More About Whole Foods Market Local and Emerging Accelerator Program

For the Local and Emerging Accelerator Program, the Early Growth cohort is made up of 10 innovative food brands who are not yet sold on the grocer’s shelves. Once the 12-week curriculum is complete, each supplier’s products will also be considered for placement on the shelves of Whole Foods Market stores in their home city or region.

This year, Whole Foods Market received more than 1,000 new applicants for the Early Growth cohort, doubling applications from the first year with 100 percent growth.

In addition to Kinship Milk Tea, the selected 2023 Early Growth brand participants include: Ruby Jean's JuiceryTiny Sprouts FoodGringuita CookiesJaju PierogiLa Rossi PizzaLazy Food Co.Seed to SurfDiaspora Co. and Bam.

As part of the 2023 programming, Whole Foods Market introduced a second cohort, “On the Verge,” to expand the opportunity to current local and emerging Whole Foods Market suppliers.These suppliers are currently sold in select stores, already demonstrate strong growth potential, and are poised for success.

On the Verge brands are also considered innovative in trends, flavors, community engagement or sustainability and demonstrate mission and values which align with Whole Foods Market’s own core values.

On the Verge participants are selected from a group of suppliers that were nominated by Whole Foods Market Merchants and Foragers. Suppliers selected for the 2023 On the Verge initiative include: fitpplBetter ChewLittle SesameFila ManilaMisha's Kind Foods12 TidesNana Joes GranolaThe Pizza CupcakeNguyen Coffee Supply and Bright Endeavors.

Whole Foods Market Accelerator Program
(Image: Courtesy of Whole Foods Market)

Alyssa Vescio, senior vice president of merchandising for Whole Foods Market, said, “LEAP has been one of the most rewarding ways to support the local and emerging brands that bring incredible products and innovation not only to Whole Foods Market stores, but to our broader communities. These are truly the brands to watch!”

For more than 40 years, Whole Foods Market has been the world’s leading natural and organic foods retailer. As the first certified organic national grocer, Whole Foods Market has more than 500 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

To learn more about Whole Foods Market, visit WholeFoodsMarket.com.

Brands seeking more information on LEAP can visit the Information for Potential Suppliers page on Whole Foods Market’s website.

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