Vendors compete for Whole Foods spots

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — In less than three months, the new Whole Foods store is scheduled to open in Mishawaka. But before that can happen, the company is on the prowl for local products to fill the shelves.

On Thursday, Michiana vendors got a chance to enter the "shark tank" of natural foods. in a foodie face off. Forty local vendors vied for precious space on the shelves for the new Mishawaka location.

Seen, tasted and bought. It is the magic recipe for success. 

And the exposure could be a game changer for local coffee roasters and specialty bakers like Warsaw's Stephanie Hapner.

"A lot of times that is only thing that holds a small business back, your product being seen," said Hapner.

Hapner's specialty product is tree nut and peanut free. 

Her product is appropriately called free food because it is also gluten free, corn free, dairy free and also egg free.

Whether or not Hapner's product meets the taste is up to the Chicago executives who are carefully sampling each product before giving the green light.

"As long as they meet that list and that criteria, we will have them in the store when we open," said Whole Foods Team Leader Clark Barnett.

The ingredients must all be natural, the packaging up to par and the creator must have the means to fill the shelves.

Local coffee roast Shaun Mauiens said he is prepared to meet that capacity.

But the most important ingredient is that the product must be made in Michiana. 

And that brings a vendor's whole dreams into the aisles of Whole Foods.


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