One day, we’ll all co-own a shop (and we’ll shop there!)

Published on 09/04/19

They are called La Louve, Ostokop, SuperQuinquin, Beescoop…and they are based on Park Slope Food Coop in the US.

They are co-operative supermarkets which are a bit hit and are growing in France and Belgium. It’s a return to a phenomenon, which says a lot about our relationship with diet and food.

It all started in Brooklyn.

It all started in a New York neighbourhood in 1973 with the first co-operative supermarket, whose aim hasn’t changed since “to be a buying agent for its members and not a selling agent for industry”. Let’s be clear, what the co-operative buys in bulk for a reduced price can only be re-sold to its members.

In practice that means that the co-operative makes less margin on its products (around 20%) and, in return, it asks its members to volunteer to make it work.

A psychologist becomes a cashier; a graphic designer – a storeman.

Today Park Slope Food Coop brings together nearly 17,000 members who, as well as paying their annual membership, commit to working for the supermarket for around three hours per month. From shelf stacking to check out, from unloading to maintenance…each person knows that the model could not work if everyone didn’t put their hands on deck. And it works!  The original version continues to seed smaller versions, particularly in Europe in recent years where the question of eating well is on everyone’s lips and in everyone’s mouths.

And there’s enough for everyone!

The first one launched in 2016: La Louve in Paris. With a 6,000 strong membership, the supermarket, which extends over almost 1,500 square metres, offers mainly organic food products, hand-made and local, without excluding what is good about a classic supermarket, good quality at reasonable value.

Since then, over one hundred projects spread over the territory have seen the day: La Cagette in Monpellier, Scopéli in Nantes, La Chouette Coop in Toulouse, Super Coop in Bordeaux…the movement is gaining pace and membership is on the rise.

Feeding a sense of purpose

According to a survey on the importance that the French place on the quality of their food (ObSoCo study, 2016), 82% declared that they are more attentive to their food than they were 5 years ago. It’s not surprising then that each one is looking to take back control over what goes on their plate. This explains the success of AMAP – Associations for the Preservation of Small, Local Farming – of which there are an estimated 3,000 in France, or brands such as C’est qui le patron? (Who’s the boss?), which invites consumers to set the fairest price for producers and customers and which now adds up to a total of nearly 100 million ethical products sold since starting out 2 years ago. Proof that the consumer hasn’t finished dipping his finger in the pie.

Photo credit : Park Slope Food Coop

Photo credit : Supercoop