Featured Article

Ontario’s Resilient Food System

When the food sovereignty movement combined with the devastating impacts of the 2008 recession to re-energize the cooperative model, an opportunity for collaboration across the Canadian province of Ontario arose. After more than eight years, The Local Organic Food Co-op Network—newly renamed Local Food and Farming Co-ops (LFFC)—continues to adapt to a complex operating reality while harnessing the passion and strengths of the outstanding people who drive the organization forward.

Ontario Natural Food Co-op Announces Sale to Horizon Group

Ontario Natural Food Co-op (ONFC) announced in early March that it had signed a letter of intent to sell its business and key assets to the Horizon Group of western Canada. The ONFC board of directors called a special membership meeting for March 20, at which co-op members approved the sale. The sale marks the end of the sole remaining and longest-standing North American co-op distributor in the organic and natural food category.

Development Co+op Brings Successful Loan Fund to Close

The NCG Development Co+operative is pleased to announce that it has loaned $9,350,000 of the $10 million dollars made available to retail food co-ops in its charter loan fund! Loans were made to support expansion and improvement efforts at three co-ops—First Alternative Co-op (Corvallis, Ore.), Co+opportunity (Santa Monica, Calif.), and Wheatsville Co-op (Austin, Tex.)—helping ensure they continue to be strong and vibrant businesses, able to meet the needs of their local communities. The loan fund is now closed, with remaining funds returned to investors.

CGN Board Holds Retreat at Up & Coming

Whenever cooperators congregate, it’s a gathering of the tribe that generates the joy of mutual recognition. Such was the case at the 2017 Up & Coming food co-op conference. Held for the first time in Milwaukee (where the conference will take place again in 2018), Outpost Natural Foods was our generous and inspiring co-op host, offering tours of two of its stores. 

Kootenay Co-op Grows Up

What do you love most about your new co-op? Since December 2016, I’ve been asking this question quite a bit of my fellow member-owners. The answers are becoming quite predictable: 

“I can have my morning coffee at the co-op now!”

“Love the new hot bar and salad bar—best and most affordable meal in town.”

“We finally have a meat department!” 

“Two shopping carts can pass each other in the aisles—hurrah!”

“We now have a parking lot!”

Telling the Board Story Through the Co-op Marketing Department

Co-op boards and marketing teams can be like two ships passing in the night. 

Chances are they’ve crossed paths during election season and annual meeting planning, but contact beyond that can be very limited. At many co-ops, neither the board nor the marketing team truly understands the other’s role or perspective, and this can lead to misunderstandings, haphazard planning and execution, and poor board communication to the membership. 

Establishing a Stronger Brand

In 2015, Food Co-op Initiative (FCI) became aware of a pattern: The strongest developing food co-ops we worked with also tended to be some of the best-branded ones. Was it simply that the strongest development teams recognized the importance of a strong brand and carried it through everything they did? Or could a powerfully executed brand actually bring greater success to a co-op in the form of more owners, more buzz, and more partnerships?

Expanding the Tent

Where do you go when you have a question related to your job at your co-op that your co-worker, owners, or board are unable answer? For years, it was probably the Cooperative Grocers’ Information Network (CGIN) general listserve or one of its related listserves for operations, human resources, membership and marketing, and so on.

Distinguishing Characteristics

Keeping it fresh: a vibrant and fresh produce department is a key part of most natural food cooperatives, and a positive produce experience is the primary reason given by shoppers for their choice of a specific store or location. A healthy produce department offers a great foundation for overall store success and is an effective way for a store to differentiate itself within the natural foods market.