Four Reasons We Love Food Co-ops
Here at OlyKraut, we love our local food co-ops.
The Olympia Food Co-op was the first grocery store to sell OlyKraut 10 years ago. In those early years, our expansion in the region was because of the support from other local co-ops up and down the I-5 corridor. OlyKraut is here today because the co-op is a community of early adopters, and they allowed us to validate our product and find our first fermented food fans. Expansion into more traditional grocery stores, such as Fred Meyer, QFC, and Whole Foods, has also been an important growth opportunity for our regional businesses. Each stage of growth means we buy more cabbage from local producers, hire more local employees, support more local service businesses, and ultimately make more fermented delicious probiotic-rich foods accessible and available to everyone! No matter where we expand to next, none of it would have been possible without the support of our local food co-ops.
So we told you how food co-ops impacted us, now here are four MORE reasons co-ops are fantastic!
1) Community ownership
The word co-op is short for cooperative which is an enterprise or organization owned by and operated for the benefit of those using its services. How awesome is that!? Co-ops underlying mission is not to make billion dollar profits but rather serve, to the best of their ability, the community who shops at the co-op. It's awesome to be able to walk into a store and now that the products on the shelf will reflect the values of the buyers. Co-ops may not always have the largest selection of products but they will carry the products that share values with their community.
2) Environmentally friendly choices
Food co-op members are known for their environmental stewardship. This means food co-op buyers are seeking and selecting products that often meet agreed-upon standards such as USDA Organic, Fair Trade, Salmon-Safe, Non-GMO, Pasture Raised, etc. In addition to certified products, food co-op buyers tend to be deeply connected to their community so they can work with producers who may not currently have certain certifications but based on strong relationships, these buyers know the products meet the values of the co-op members. This is helpful when farms have transitioning fields or say, a local manufacturer is working towards a certification but because of the cost or time, it hasn't been acquired yet. (yes, that was OlyKraut in the early years)
3) Local dollars stay local
According to the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, $68 dollars of every $100 spent locally stays local. This is about twice as much as when the same $100 is spent at a national chain establishment. This is huge! According to the Small Business Administration small businesses account for about 64% of all new jobs created between 1993 and 2011. So when less money leaves your local economy that means more jobs stay and are created in the local economy. The impact also extends beyond job creation because local businesses are more likely to care about the local environment, they provide more diverse products not offered by chains, and thriving local business create more resilient local economies. We know, we got a little academic there, but your local food co-op sourcing local products and paying living wages to its employees is like a super multiplier and we think it is awesome!
4) Innovation and new products
Fermented foods, organic produce and products, kombucha, gluten-free products, vegetable juices, kefir, and drinking vinegars are just a few of the things that got their start (and are getting their starts) at local food co-ops. Food co-ops have the flexibility and customer/member support to search out new exciting products. There is nothing like walking into your local co-op and finding a delicious new treat that supports the environment, has strong social values, fit your unique dietary restrictions, and is made down the street!
All this co-op talk has us hungry, lunchtime at the Olympia Food Co-op for those of us at OlyKraut HQ!
Why co-op vs coop? according to grammerist.com, the word cooperate is spelled co-operate by most English speakers outside the U.S, so hyphen or no hyphen is acceptable English. Since shorting cooperative to coop looks like a chicken coop it makes sense the preferred shortened version is co-op.
Olympia Food Coop https://olympiafood.coop/inside-the-store/departments/dairy-chill/