Tanka Is First Native Business to Receive Whole Foods Local Producer Loan
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation-based Native American Natural Foods, maker of the Tanka line of buffalo snacks, is the first Native American recipient of a low-interest loan through Whole Foods Market’s Local Producer Loan Program.
The loan program is designed to help small, independent companies grow their businesses. The loan allows Native American Natural Foods to further expand its line of Tanka products, which are based on the traditional Lakota recipe that powered Lakota Sioux warriors for centuries. The company’s first product, Tanka Bar, was the first snack bar to combine meat and fruit for the national market.
Co-founders Karlene Hunter and Mark Tilsen created the company to help combat obesity and diabetes on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and to provide opportunities for employment and economic development in the Native American community. Additionally, proceeds from the company’s products support the Tanka Fund, which is helping to return buffalo to the land.
“This loan is helping us expand the Tanka line and create efficiencies in our production processes,” said Tilsen, the company’s president. “We have worked with Whole Foods since 2010, and the loan program enables us to truly partner with the nation’s largest natural retailer. We are releasing five new products, which the loan program helped enable, at Natural Products Expo West.”
According to Hunter, who is CEO, the Whole Foods Global Grocery team was instrumental in working with Native American Natural Foods during the loan process.
“We truly appreciate the opportunity this loan provides for us to continue to grow not only our Tanka product line, but also the awareness of Lakota culture and traditions,” Hunter said. “Our ongoing mission is to make the Tanka brand powerful enough to change lives on the reservation. It is wonderful to know that Whole Foods is willing to help us bring that mission to life.”
The partnership has been equally rewarding for Whole Foods Market.
“At Whole Foods Market, we partner with suppliers that share our values,” said Matt Jimenez, global grocery purchasing coordinator for Whole Foods Market. “And from our first meeting with Tanka, it was clear that their products had a soul and a story we wanted to get behind. They’re commitment to quality, responsible sourcing and giving back are evident in everything they do, and we’re proud to help their business grow through our Local Producer Loan Program.”
To apply for a loan through Whole Foods Market’s Local Producer Loan Program, producers must meet Whole Foods Market’s strict Quality Standards, use the funds for expansion and have a viable business plan. Loans range from $1,000 to $100,000.
Whole Foods Market has pledged to grant up to $25 million in low-interest loans to small, local producers. To date, the program has funded more than $15 million for more than 200 suppliers.
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