Lisa Curtis, CEO of Kuli Kuli Foods, might not go so far as that. But “if this really enables them to fully execute promotions then–as a national brand–to us it is worth it,” says Curtis, who began making products from the moringa plant while in the Peace Corps. (A Whole Foods employee spotted Kuli Kuli at a farmer’s market and directed Curtis toward the retailer’s forager program, which scouts local startups.) The same goes for demos, on which Curtis relies and for which she must now pay Whole Foods. If that fee means she can rest easy that there is product on the shelf, a table set up, and all flows smoothly, then she is on board.
There have been some recent bumps. Curtis says Whole Foods delayed–with little communication and at substantial cost to her–the debut of an exclusive new line of smoothies co-developed with the retailer. After meeting with her new buyer, the situation was resolved and the two companies are discussing an additional collaboration. On the whole, Curtis says, “I have been taken aback by the level of support that we are still getting. I thought a lot of that would be gone in the Amazon era. My hope and my sense is that brands like us will still be valued.”