The Co-operative Food

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"Co-op Food" redirects here. For general information on organisations of this name, see Food cooperative.
The Co-operative Food
Brand used by food businesses of UK consumer co-operatives
Industry Retail
Founded 23 July 1850
Headquarters One Angel Square,
Manchester, United Kingdom
Number of locations
4,039 of which 3,579 use the 2008 The Co-operative Food brand
Products Grocer
Parent The Co-operative brand

The Co-operative Food, commonly referred to as the Co-op, is a brand devised for the grocery business of the consumer co-operative movement in the United Kingdom. The brand is commonly understood to represent one supermarket business though this is not true as it is used by over 15 different co-operative societies which operate over 4,000 outlets. Successor to Co-op Welcome and a range of regional formats, the latest version of the brand was introduced in 2008 with a significant advertising campaign. Customers of many of the larger UK co-operative societies can earn an annual share of the profits at any of the "The Co-operative Food" branded stores in proportion to purchases through The Co-operative Membership scheme.

In 2015 The Co-operative Food was voted "best overall convenience store chain" at the CTP Awards. [1]


A Co-operative Food store in Lawnswood, Leeds.
A co-branded Esso/Co-operative Food petrol station and convenience store in Northallerton.

Whilst the UK co-operative sector's market share of food retail has diminished from a peak of 30% in the 1950s to just 6.4% today, the largest business in the UK co-operative movement - The Co-operative Group - remains the fifth largest food retailer in the United Kingdom. The "The Co-operative Food" brand is used by over 3,500 stores owned by the various societies which make up the co-operative movement, including the Central England Co-operative and the Midcounties Co-operative, but the brand is most associated with The Co-operative Group as it operates significantly the largest number of stores. A number of co-operative societies including Scotmid and the Lincolnshire Co-operative do not use the standard brand, preferring instead to retain the 1992 'cloverleaf version of The Co-operative brand.

The Co-operative Food stores are of various sizes incorporating convenience stores and supermarkets and the brand has the biggest geographical spread of any retailer, with a store in every postal region of the UK. The vast majority of products sold in "The Co-operative Food" stores are sourced collectively through the Co-operative Retail Trading Group although stocking decisions and pricing are determined by the individual businesses. The Co-operative Group, which manages the 'Retail Trading Group' took the decision not to compete head-on with the Big Four supermarket multiples purely on price in a market that was becoming ever more competitive. The co-operative movement has largely decided to concentrate instead on smaller convenience stores in local communities and also to market the "co-operative difference" and the ethical stance that the Retail Trading Group has taken on sourcing, having long been a supporter of Fairtrade, renewable energy and higher animal welfare standards.

List of UK Co-operatives With Food Retailing Operations[edit]

Though often considered to be one supermarket business, The Co-operative Food is a network of supermarkets and convenience stores owned and operated by over 15 independent co-operative societies, many of which have adopted the 2008 version of The Co-operative brand. In total there are over 4,000 co-operative foodstores in the UK, more outlets than any other grocer. The table below indicates how many foodstores each co-operative society operates.

Co-operative Society Number of Outlets Use of the 2008 The Co-operative brand
The Co-operative Group 2796 Yes
Central England Co-operative 255 Yes
The Midcounties Co-operative 245 Yes
Scotmid 204 No
Southern Co-operative 197 Yes
East of England Co-operative Society 133 No
Lincolnshire Co-operative 84 No
Chelmsford Star Co-operative 36 Yes
Heart of England Co-operative 34 Yes
Channel Islands Co-operative Society 16 No
Tamworth Co-operative 14 Yes
Radstock Co-operative Society 14 No
Clydebank Co-operative Society 6 No
Wooldale Co-operative Society 3 No
Allandale Co-op 1 No
Coniston Co-op 1 No

Store numbers for the year 2014: [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

Ethical Trading Initiatives[edit]

The Co-operative Food is widely recognised for its commitment to responsible and ethical trading, particularly for championing fairtrade in the UK.[11] These commitments and its mutual structure led to The Co-operative Food being awarded Ethical Consumer Magazine's 'Best Buy' status in 2011 and 2014.[12] This section only refers to sourcing initiatives for food sold through the Co-operative Retail Trading Group and more information on the commitments of individual co-operative societies can be found on their respective pages.

The Co-operative Food was the first major UK retailer to stock Fairtrade products and was the first UK supermarket to sell fairtrade coffee (1992), bananas (2000), own-brand chocolate (2000), own-brand wine (2001), sugar (2005) and blueberries (2010).[11] Since then, all own brand block chocolate (2002), coffee (2003), sugar (2008), bananas (2012), winter blueberries (2012) has been converted to fairtrade. The Co-operative Food is also the largest UK retailer of fairly traded wine and has the largest range of fairtrade products in the UK. The business has also been recognised for working with many co-operative and smallholder farmers, including providing investment funding to enable farming co-operatives who supply them to convert to fairtrade certification. In 2014 its fairtrade sales were £133m.[13][14]

The Co-operative is one of the leading retailers of responsible fish in the UK having launched its Responsible Fish Sourcing Policy in 2008 after commissioning research in association with NGOs, academics and its suppliers. The Co-operative Food was commended by the Marine Conservation Society with a 'gold award' (2011) and a 'silver award' (2013) and, for its sourcing policy, The Co-operative was one of five organisations accredited with the 2010 Seafood Champion Award. [15] Their fish sourcing policy specifies that no fish sold by The Co-op can found on the Marine Stewardship Council's 'Fish To Avoid' list, all own brand tuna must be pole and line caught and own brand farmed salmon is certified by the RSPCA.

All Co-operative own-brand health, beauty and household products are marked with an "approved by BUAV" rabbit symbol to show that neither the product nor its ingredients have been tested on animals. This has been the case since 1985 and 1997 for toiletry and household products respectively.[16]

For a number of years The Co-operative Food has sourced approximately 98% of its electricity from renewable sources,[16] of which 12% they generate themselves and another proportion is sourced from community energy projects supported by 'The Co-operative Enterprise Hub'.[17]

The Co-operative Food donates money from the sale of bottled water and carrier bags to various charitable causes with over £5m awarded since the project started. Projects which have been funded included clean water projects in Africa and emergency funding for the 2015 DEC Nepal Earthquake appeal.[18]

A strong British sourcing policy has been central to The Co-operative Food for a number of years. In 2014, all fresh beef, butter, cheese, chicken, duck, eggs, ham, milk, meat pie fillings, meat sandwich fillings, pork, turkey, sausages and salmon were sourced from within the UK.[19] The business has pledged that all in season potatoes, carrots, cabbage, swede, onions, parsnips and lamb will be British by 2018.[20]


The Co-operative Food brand is a part of the larger national The Co-operative brand which was last updated in 2008. According to Catherine Charnock of Co-operative Brands Ltd., The Co-operative Food was given a green identifying colour distinguishing it from other co-operative business sectors (such as pharmacy, banking, travel and funerals) and from the previous blue livery.[21]

Many of the stores which operates as 'The Co-operative Food' use a standard in-store "Co-operative Radio" which is produced and broadcast by Mood Media[22] Since 2015, Scotmid has provided its own 'in-store radio' [23]


Co-operative Food Supply Chain Logistics is the distribution business of the The Co-operative Group that manages the national and international distribution of goods on behalf of the majority of food retailing co-operative societies which are part of the Co-operative Retail Trading Group. The Co-operative group manages all of its own logistics and delivery operations. Stock which is to be sold by any of the independent co-operative societies is often delivered to each society's central warehouse. The Central England Co-operative delivers goods to stores on behalf of the Heart of England Co-operative Society and the Tamworth Co-op using its fleet of lorries.[24]

Co-operative Food Supply Chain Logistics has 8 regional distribution centres and 3 smaller satellite depots supporting the larger RDC's . Coventry NDC supplys all depots direct with slow moving lines.

Depot Name Location Products
Birtley (Head Office) Birtley, County Durham Ambient, Frozen, Chilled, Meat and Produce
Andover Andover, Hampshire Ambient, Frozen, Chilled, Meat and Produce
Avonmouth Bristol Ambient, Frozen, Chilled, Meat and Produce
Castlewood Mansfield Ambient, Frozen, Chilled, Meat and Produce
Lea Green St Helens, Merseyside Ambient, Frozen, Chilled, Meat and Produce
Newhouse near Glasgow, Scotland Ambient, Frozen, Chilled, Meat and Produce
Thurrock West Turrock, Essex Ambient, Chilled, Meat and Produce
Cardinal Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire Chilled, Meat and Produce
Coventry (NDC) Coventry West Midlands Slow Moving Lines
Inverness Satellite Depot for Northern Scotland
Carrickfergus Satellite Depot for Northern Ireland
Plymouth Satellite Depot for Andover


Members of The Co-operative Group and participating regional societies earn one membership point for every £1.00 spent at The Co-operative Food. Points are converted into dividend at a rate agreed annually by the Board.[25]

Product ranges[edit]

Ranges include:

  • Truly Irresistible - premium food and drink, analogous to Tesco Finest
  • Loved By Us - core own-brand range, analogous to Asda Chosen By You
  • Free From - suitable for customers with food allergies
  • Simply Value - budget food and household products, analogous to Tesco Value. This brand was used by Somerfield and continues to be used by the Co-operative following the takeover. Most products now have been converted to Loved by us.

Product Awards[edit]

The Co-operative Food have won a number of awards since its incarnation and a selection of them are listed below:

Awarding Body Award Relevant Product Prize Year
British Sandwich Awards Sandwich Convenience Retailer of the Year Award Winner 2015
The Grocer Own-Label Awards Chairman's Award Kashmiri Butter Chicken, Red Onion & Spinach Pizza Best Overall Product 2015
The Grocer Own-Label Awards Chilled Family Dessert The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Scottish Raspberry Prosecco Pannacotta Terrine Gold 2015
The Grocer Own-Label Awards Cobs Rolls and Wraps The Co-operative Red Leicester And Pumpkin Seed Batard Gold 2015
The Grocer Own-Label Awards Frozen Meal Accompniment The Co-operative Loved by us 4 Microwaveable Golden Vegetable Rice Bags Gold 2015
The Grocer Own-Label Awards Poultry Joints The Co-operative Loved by us Extra Tasty Whole Chicken Gold 2015
Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association Convenience Store Pizza Retailer Winner 2014
Retail Industry Awards Chilled Retailer of the Year 2014 Winner 2014
The Grocer Own-Label Awards Vinegars & Oils The Co-operative Truly Irresistible British Coldpressed Rapeseed Oil Gold 2014
The Grocer Own-Label Awards Cheese, Cheddar The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Somerset Vintage Cheddar Winner 2012
The Grocer Own-Label Awards Fish, Coated The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Smoked Haddock Melting Middle Fishcakes Gold 2011
The Grocer Own-Label Awards Confectionary The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Fairtrade Milk Chocolate with Butterscotch Gold 2011



In 2014 and 2015 it was uncovered by the Food Standards Agency that 73% of UK supermerket chicken contained the bacterium Campylobacter, including those sold by The Co-operative Food.[27] In December 2015, The Co-operative Food responded by converting all of their own brand whole chickens to leak-proof 'roast in the bag' packaging to reduce cross-contamination. [28] Following this, the co-op found that by managing chicken flocks differently and stopping a practice called ‘thinning’ (whereby a proportion of a flock are removed from the shed early in the growing period) the prevalance of Campylobacter was reduced by 8-10%.[29] This finding, along with other similar research from three other UK supermarkets, was praised by the Food Standards Agency in 2015 for the progress made.[30]

See also[edit]


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  19. ^ This excludes continental meats (e.g. Chorizo)
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  21. ^ Charnock, Catherine, Marketing The Co-operative Advantage (PDF), retrieved 14 June 2010 
  22. ^ Co-operative Radio shows sales increase up to 40% at
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  25. ^ The Co-operative Membership The Co-operative Group (retrieved 20 August 2009)
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