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How Consumer Perception Shifts When Joining a Co-op

Perhaps catalysed by the COVID-19 pandemic, health has shifted up our awareness and values radars.

In 2020, many of us were at home more. The free time we inherited by no longer needing to commute to and from work nor attend meetings, sporting practice sessions or social events meant that we had more time to spend as a family, cook at home and exercise. Exercise, for many, became a means to an end because it was ear-marked as one of the essential reasons we were allowed to leave our home.

Long days cooped up at home also meant that many of us started to do a little more food shopping (also listed as an essential reason for leaving home) and testing out recipes that we may not have tried before. My food co-op went gangbusters in 2020 for this very reason. My members preferred picking up their food from my local pick up point rather than venturing out to the shops during the COVID-19 hey-day here in Sydney.

I’ve had numerous conversations with my members about whether their experience of shopping via a co-op has met their needs and expectations. As with all experiences, there are pros and cons but summarized into a nutshell, I would say that shopping via a co-op changes your perception and expectations as a customer.

Here are the biggest mindset and expectation shifts that seem to happen when someone becomes a co-op member:

1. You expect local, seasonal produce: Members expect access to cheap, local, and seasonal produce. This is typically the best tasting produce on the market, because of its seasonality. They love knowing where their food has come from. Knowing, allows us to feel more connected to our farmers and gives us an insight into the journey between farm and plate.

2. You expect produce to look less than perfect: When we do our weekly grocery shop at a super market, we examine, poke, prod and smell our produce to make sure that it is “perfect”. My co-op members now don’t blink at an odd sized zucchini, curly cucumbers or misshapen capsicums. For us, it is all part and parcel of supporting our local farmers and everything that they harvest. Typically, much of the produce that we consume in our co-op would not meet the aesthetics standards set by supermarkets. We are so happy in knowing that this odd-produce ends up in our tummies rather than in the waste pile.

3. You want to reduce your environmental footprint:

Co-op members generally choose to join a co-op because they want to contribute to the sustainability movement. Purchasing from a co-op usually means bringing your own bags, produce mesh bags, containers and expecting to reuse the produce boxes. Co-ops shorten the distance greatly between farm and plate, thereby reducing carbon emissions.

4. You have more flexibility around what ends up in your shopping basket: When we walk into the shops, we expect to purchase both what we want and what we need, not taking into account seasonality. We expect that produce is there for us to buy all year round, even if it’s not grown locally. My co-op members on the other hand, are more in tune to food's seasonality. Because our local farmers can’t grow certain things all year round, our supply of certain items ebb and flow with the seasons. Therefore, my members cook in accordance with what’s available - which is generally in-line with what our bodies need at that time of year. They are open to accepting a different variety of apple should their favourite be unavailable. Furthermore, co-ops are all about sharing larger boxes of food so there may be some weeks where we purchase someone else’s favourite produce instead.

5. You set aside time for collection: A neighbourhood fruit and vegetable co-op is only open for box collection during a certain time frames. If you do your grocery shopping at odd hours due to a non-traditional work schedule, school obligations or other reasons, you may appreciate a supermarket’s extensive opening hours. However, other factors such as living low waste and supporting local farmers may outweigh around-the-clock convenience for a co-op member.

Joining a co-op may not be for everyone but there are some pretty notable benefits to think about!

I am so excited for our App to land very, very soon. It will streamline and modernise the traditional co-op giving you the best customer experience for everything an amazing a co-op can be!

Keep watching this space.


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