Dublin Food Co-op
|Products||Organic wholefoods, sustainable personal care and household products|
Dublin Food Co-operative Society Limited is a food retailer based in a large former warehouse in The Liberties area of Dublin, Ireland. It was founded in 1983 and is constituted as a consumer co-operative, with a focus on organic and wholefood products.
The main trading day at the Co-op venue is Saturday, when the majority of sales are made by independent stallholders. Whilst similar to a farmers’ market in some respects, its operating model pre-dates the later popularity of farmers' markets in Ireland. It further differs from farmers’ markets by excluding ‘meat and meat products’, in keeping with its constitution.
The Dublin Food Co-op venue also opens on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and on Sundays (when the venue normally hosts independent market events).
The origins of the Co-op lie with a group of activists brought together by the successful campaign against the construction of a nuclear power plant at Carnsore Point in County Wexford. In 1983, a number of those involved met together to form an organisation through which members could 'shop in an ecologically sound way' and 'promote the rational use of the earth's resources'. Thus, a buying club for the collective purchase of wholefoods was established. For one Saturday each month, the Co-op used a succession of locations in Temple Bar as a focal point to allow members to collect pre-ordered wholefoods and to socialise. In 1986 some members who were also producers began to provide fresh organic produce for sale directly at the Saturday events.
Pearse Street 1987-2007
In 1987, the Co-op arranged to rent the hall at St. Andrew's Resource Centre on Pearse Street, Dublin 2, every second Saturday and switched from monthly to bi-weekly order collections after that. This location became the Co-op's base for the next two decades. When the Co-op settled into the new venue, the process to formally incorporate as a co-operative limited company under the rules of the Industrial and Provident Society Acts 1893-1978 was initiated, and Dublin Food Co-operative Society Limited thus came into being in February 1991. In 1995, the Co-op switched away from the pre-order-only system, began carrying a range of stock for general purchase and moved to weekly trading.
Concerns about the Pearse Street premises limiting the Co-op's scope for development remained a recurring theme over subsequent years. Other alternatives were explored but it was not until 2007 that relocation occurred, after the Co-op received planning permission and signed a lease on full-time premises at Newmarket, further to the west of the city centre near St. Patrick's Cathedral. Many members and local shoppers wanted to continue shopping at St. Andrew's and one of them started a Saturday dry goods and producers' market at the venue - The Super Natural Food Market. This commenced as a weekly event in August 2007, the month after the Co-op departed.
In July 2007, the Co-op switched operations to its current home at 12 Newmarket, Dublin 8 and added Thursday trading at the new venue from September. It was formally opened in October 2007 by Minister for the Environment John Gormley to coincide with Ireland's National Organic Week.
In April 2013 a new five-year lease for the Newmarket premises was signed. However, the possibility of the Co-op buying its own alternate premises has been under active exploration since 2011 and this option continues to be provided for by a break-clause in the lease.
The vast majority of pre-packed food the Co-op sells is organic and particular emphasis is placed on Fair Trade and environmentally-friendly produce. During Saturday trading (09:30 to 16:30), stallholders extend the dry goods range to include organic vegetables and fruits, organic cheeses, eggs and dairy, organic wine, baked goods, organic clothing, books and other non-food items. The Co-op also opens on Thursdays and Fridays with more limited availability of fresh produce. In addition, the Co-op offers its dry goods range for sale on Sundays.
The number of member-shareholders of the Society at the end of 2012 was recorded by the annual accounts at 876. Members receive a 5% discount on purchases, which increases to 15% if they also volunteer on a rota system to assist with tasks such as shelf stacking.
Since securing its own permanent space and making it available for hire, the Co-op has become home to regular events including the monthly Dublin Flea Market, Fusion Market  and Newmarket Brocante, plus the annual Independents Day.
A 2009 academic study described Dublin Food Co-op as "distinctive on the Irish scene" because of its organisational structure. At that time, it was one of only two Irish wholefood retailers established as co-operatives and the only one to take the form of a consumers' co-operative (the other, the Quay Co-operative in Cork, was organised as a workers' co-operative).
The study also argued that the Co-op had "a different pricing structure to conventional businesses, only adding the margin needed to cover its operating expenses".
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