Forty-three percent of food involved people belong to a co-op

June 18, 2012

A SupermarketGuru quick poll conducted last month shows evidence that more shoppers are joining food co-ops, and many would if they had one in their community.

In the United States, there could be a growing number of Americans looking to food co-ops to shop for their households. In fact, a SupermarketGuru quick poll conducted last month shows that 43% are currently a member of a food co-op.

There are different styles of food co-ops, but generally they are grocery stores collectively owned by the members that share in management and decision making. Usually (but not always) these types of organizations focus on natural foods and local produce, and incorporate an overall socially and environmentally responsible approach to their business. Sometimes members pay for a membership, and in some cases, members volunteer time working at the co-op. In exchange, members have access to more affordable, quality foods.

Current trends in buying local, growing interest in knowing where food comes, and a large amount of attention being paid to food desert issues and the ability for struggling families to afford fresh, healthy foods, could all be part of why shoppers' may be interested in joining a food co-op more than ever. Sixty-seven percent of the SupermarketGuru consumer panel say that they would join a food co-op if they had one in their community. Only six percent say they would not, and 22% are unsure. And 39% say they would be willing to pay an annual fee of $25, 13% would pay $35, 16% would pay $50, 12% would pay $51+, and 19% say they would not be willing to pay any annual fee.

What drives people to shop at a food co-op? When we asked the SG panel if they feel like the quality of food at a co-op is higher, 51% said yes (38% said they don't shop at a food co-op). In the case of food safety, 50% feel that the food at their co-op is safer, and in the case of pricing, 35% feel that shopping a co-op is more economical.

In addition, the results of the SG poll showed many that shop at a food co-op, also shop at other types of stores. Sixty-four percent shop at a supermarkets, 60% shop at farmers markets, 35% shop at warehouse clubs, 33% shop at big box retailers like Target or Walmart, 16% shop at Dollar stores, 14% shop at drug stores, and six percent shop at convenience stores.

Supermarkets that are paying attention to this trend may want to put some thought into how they can offer similar benefits that a food co-op has to offer. For especially those supermarkets that are incorporating more local products in their stores, customers might be enthusiastic about a club within the store that offers special benefits/pricing on local products.