Working together can cut costs in coop supermarket

New scheme may help

Big-name supermarkets are facing a challenge from a growing number of small cooperatives that charge membership fees, sell to members only and ask their members to work to cut costs and prices.

Sporting memorable names such as Superquinquin, La Chouette, Super Cafoutch they are springing up all over the country and offer direct links with local food producers to cut food miles while offering prices of around 20% cheaper.

They do not compete directly with the thousands of product lines in a large supermarket, but members aim to “make a difference” and, perhaps, feel better about spending their money. That means they ‘own’ the coop, they are the only customers and they are also the staff, working a few hours a month on required jobs.

‘Buying-in’ to membership can mean €15 in Grenoble, €100 in Paris, Bordeaux and Lille, although Superquinquin in Lille also has a €10 rate for those on low incomes.

The first in France was La Louve in Paris, with American founder Tom Boothe saying he based it directly on the Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn, and about 30 more have followed with a Coop federation being formed to give both information and practical aid to other project groups.