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.
Serving the greater Milwaukee area since 1970, Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative operates five convenient retail locations in Metro Milwaukee. Co-owned by 22,000+ individuals from Southeastern Wisconsin, Outpost employs nearly 450 people, is a union employer represented by UFCW Local #1473, as 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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Bringing Grocery Stores to Low-Income Urban Food Deserts. Food Co-op Initiative in Cooperative Grocer Magazine, 2015.
The Twin Cities Cooperative local Food System: A Case Study and Commentary. Cooperative Development Services, 2014.
Buying a Business to Start a Co-op: A Case Study of Food Co-op Conversions. Food Co-op Initiative, 2013.
A Study of Co-op Business Development in Wisconsin and Minnesota: Fourteen Recent Start-ups in the Food and Agricultural Sectors. UW Center for Cooperatives, 2013.
Case Study: Willy Street Grocery Cooperative. UW Center for Cooperatives, 2011.
Food Co-op Feasibility. Food Co-op Initiative, 2010.
Legal Primer: For Formation of Consumer-Owned Food Cooperatives. Food Co-op Initiative, 2010.
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Member Loan Campaign Toolbox: A Guide for Retail Food Co-ops. Food Co-op Initiative, 2009.
Keys to Success for Food Co-op Start Ups in Rural Areas: Four Case Studies. USDA Research Report 208, 2005.
Manual for Student-Run Food Cooperatives. Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive.