The Coops behind the high-street brands PDF Print E-mail

Co-ops are businesses owned and run by workers, consumers, the community or by other businesses. Everyone involved has a say in the way the business is run and how the profit is shared out.


We all know our local Co-op shop but did you know that behind some of the best known high-street brands are millions of farmers from around the world who have formed co-operatives to improve their bargaining power, sustain their businesses and make a better living as a result of working together?

In Britain half of all the 300,000 farmers are members of co-operatives, making up around 450 separate businesses in total. Along with produce from around the world, a typical supermarket is almost certain to include a number of items supplied by a co-op.

For instance:

· Lurpak, one of Europe's best known brands of butter, is produced and owned by 8,000 dairy farmers in Denmark, Sweden and Germany.

· Nearly all champagne, one of France's best known and high value products, is produced by cooperatives of small vineyards.

· 90% of parmesan cheese is made by a cooperative of small farmers and producers in northern Italy.

· Ocean Spray is a cooperative of over 600 family farms from across the USA and their cranberry products are on shelves throughout the world.

· McCoy's are using an increasing proportion of potatoes supplied by a cooperative of local farmers to manufacture their crisps.

· Colman's Mustard Seed Growers Co-operative is a co-operative and supplies the majority of the seeds used to make Colman's English Mustard.

· Most of the blackcurrants in Ribena are supplied by The Blackcurrant Growers' Association, a co-operative of farmers.

· The Green Pea Company is a co-operative of UK farmers providing peas for the Birds Eye company.

· Danish bacon, stocked in every UK supermarket and exported to over 100 countries, is entirely produced by co-operative farmers in Denmark.

· Fairtrade was started by cooperatives in Mexico and is now a global phenomenon.75% of all Fairtrade goods are produced by co-operatives.

Many people prefer to shop at their local Co-op but even if you do the weekly grocery run at one of the big name supermarkets, the chances are that you are also supporting a number of co-ops producing the goods on offer.