Retail, consumer-owned grocery cooperatives are most visible in natural foods segment of the sector, which has developed, grown, and matured during the last 50 years. Retail grocery cooperatives can also be found in the conventional foods sector, especially in smaller communities that have sought to reestablish this type of anchor business when long-standing retail grocery stores have closed.
Grocery cooperatives operate in a low-margin, price-competitive sector that must respond to evolving consumer expectations, changing retail channels, including online ordering, and patterns of food preparation and consumption.
Examples of Grocery Cooperatives
The Willy Street Co-op started in 1974, when a group of people wanted to provide quality food for their families. They began the Co-op in order to find and sell fresh, local, organic, and natural foods. Willy Street Co-op has expanded to offer more products, opened a production kitchen and has three stores in and around Madison, Wisconsin.
Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative
Serving the greater Milwaukee area since 1970, Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative operates four convenient retail locations in Metro Milwaukee. Co-owned by 23,000+ individuals from Southeastern Wisconsin, Outpost employs nearly 450 people, is a union employer represented by UFCW Local #1473, and publishes the award-winning food and dining magazine GRAZE. Outpost is the fifth-largest cooperatively owned natural foods grocer in the country by sales volume.
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Buying a Business to Start a Co-op: A Case Study of Food Co-op Conversions. Food Co-op Initiative, 2013.
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Case Study: Willy Street Grocery Cooperative. UW Center for Cooperatives, 2011.
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