Soli and ProvenSource: blockchain technology and the ancient supply chain of frankincense
By Julie Holloway
Senior Technical Advisor, Bodycare
Our Quality Standards have set the bar for growth and positive change in our stores but have also had a profound impact on the retail industry as a whole. In providing consistent feedback based on extensive research and understanding of certain classes of ingredients, we provide suppliers at Whole Foods Market an implicit seal of approval that carries weight across the industry. Many of our peers and competitors are standing on the shoulders of the work we have been doing for the past 40 years. Shoppers are given a level of confidence in the products they buy from us that exists in few retail environments. It is enormous, inspiring… and is a great deal of responsibility that we take very seriously.
Pacha/Soli are quite simply one of my favorite brands and have been since a glorious box of bar soap crossed my desk years ago. Andrew, co-founder of Pacha, sent it to me at the request of the Hastings store and I fell head over heels in love with the products and how pretty they were (I know it is weird to think soap can be pretty, but that is why I love my job because I can go there). I called to thank them for the submission and to learn more about their mission and managed to reach Andrew somewhere in the Andes where he was teaching hygiene with soap his company had donated to a village there. I have told this story so many times, but it is a moment that I will never forget. Pacha was talking the talk and walking the walk. It was so real, fresh and truly moving to me. He offered to call me back when he was off the mountain and had better cell reception. And so it began.
I am in regular contact with different parts of the Pacha or Soli team when either one of us has questions. It is always a dialog about how we can work towards shared goals, and often leaves us inspired to continue to elevate our standards.
My relationship with Pacha and with Soli has grown over the years as I have watched the brand (and Andrew) mature and expand their goals, direction and broaden their reach. They have adamantly refused to be locked into one area of success but have consistently set their goals higher and embraced a bigger picture with ambition and drive. For instance, Pacha spent a tremendous amount of time and money to research and compile extensive data on ingredients, pigments, and fragrances and is willing to share that information with others in the industry because they believe it is the right thing to do. We see this in their work on frankincense too, where Pacha is actively working in partnership with other brands, like LUSH, to create more demand for traceable frankincense; collaboration for change, not competition and silos.
Their new project Soli is next level. Working in partnership with their new supply chain company ProvenSource, which employs blockchain technology in challenging and impactful supply chains, they’re working towards an unprecedented level of supply chain transparency. There is such power and confidence in a transparent relationship with the source of ingredients. The willingness to be unadorned and bold about where ingredients are sourced and revealing the relationship to the land, the people responsible for growing something, harvesting it and processing it. To knowing that the individual, the family, the village and feeling deeply that connection to the very specific source and to the larger picture it brings to the table. We all need connections – and not merely to the internet – but to each other and the products we choose to buy and use and understand the potential impact we each can make by those choices. To support a cottage industry or a farmer across the world from us and help him and his family get to a better life is wonderful. The icing on the cake is experiencing the unparalleled beauty of the lovely gifts from his land. The nuanced differences between different sources of lavender or rose wood or frankincense is a rare treat, and when that serves a greater good? Sign me up.
Check out their website or check the QR code on the Soli products and read a wonderful story on the box of the products. Drop in to see what thoughtful relationships are built on integrity and transparency can lead in the world and learn more about a small part of it while you are at it. I find the stories and the products equal parts engaging, moving, uplifting, inspirational, evocative and soulful.
In the scope of my work, I work with so many suppliers, read so many labels, research so many products. It is rare to feel so engaged and transformed by products. I smell products as a part of my understanding of the product itself and love that I can feel such a range of emotions and memories tied to that experience. Bonus points when something that potentially calms or energizes, soothes or stirs, can also help promote a positive change for others as well.
Julie Holloway started her career at Whole Foods Market in 2000 as an executive assistant and joined the Quality Standards Team in early 2005. Her focus has predominantly been on personal care. She reviews products with a focus on acceptable/unacceptable ingredients and product label claims.