By now, you’ve probably heard of Buying Groups and Co-Ops, but why are they so popular? Well, sustainably conscious shoppers are always looking for new and affordable ways to purchase their food in an ethical manner.
Group Buying in all forms is starting to gain momentum globally, as the internet provides more social connectivity, making this process simpler for consumers. On top of the financial savings, Buying Groups have a wide range of benefits that we’ll cover in this article.
What is a Buying Group/Co-Op?
A food co-operative is an organisation set up by its members, and is more than likely non for profit. There are many different models that are currently operating in Australia, and they usually involve an annual membership fee to access the co-op or volunteering your time to work at the co-op to access the food at a discounted rate.
Group Buying or Collective Buying refers to a smaller buying group, usually set up between family, friends, neighbours or colleagues, who bulk purchase their food and split the items up amongst themselves, making the unit cost lower for each item. Whether its beans, rice, potatoes or pasta, Group Buying provides access to local fresh fruit and veg, as well as dried bulk foods that are used frequently in the kitchen, at cheaper cost for all groups involved.
Both Group Buying and Co-Ops are small social enterprises, that provide higher profits to suppliers by cutting out the middle-man (Supermarkets), providing members access to fresher seasonal food at a discounted price.
What are the benefits of Group Buying ?
The most obvious advantage of Group Buying is the savings. Group Buying allows individuals to bulk purchase items at wholesale prices, meaning all members of the group have access these savings that usually only larger organisations can obtain.
But it’s not just us consumers that receive these financial benefits, by purchasing from this alternative economy outside of the mainstream food system, more of our money goes directly to local farmers instead of giant supermarket corporations.
Did you know that Group Buying is one of the most sustainable means of purchasing? When buying in bulk, you’re immediately reducing the amount of plastic involved in the packaging and repackaging of goods. Fresh fruit and veg is usually shrink wrapped in plastic or put in a plastic container for “convenience” at Supermarket chains, to extend the produce’s shelf life.
In some cases, extending the shelf life is necessary to avoid food wastage, however individually wrapped plastic items are unnecessary and contribute to the 660,000 tonnes of plastic waste created by Australians every year. Through individuals making small choices to reduce their plastic consumption habits, we can lower our overall plastic usage and pressure larger organisations to change the way they package their fresh food.
Group Buying also reduces the Food Miles related to your food purchase. The term Food Miles refers to the total distance your food has been transported from the time it’s cultivated and processed to the time you purchase it. The food you see at your local supermarket has contributed to unseen carbon emissions related to its means of production, the transportation, processing, packaging and retailing of the food products.
Buying Groups and Co-Ops directly reduce Food Miles by avoiding the Supermarket Supply Chain, and selling seasonal produce, reducing the emissions related to transport, processing and cold storage.
And finally, the community aspect. Meeting up over a cup of tea or a coffee, swapping bags and boxes to divvy up the food, sharing recipes or just talking about how your week is going. There’s a certain charm that comes with Co-Ops and Buying Groups and its name is community. Through these shared interactions, connections are cultivated, friendships are made, and our small communities are strengthened.
Give your friends, family or colleagues a call and create your own little Buying Group community. You’ll be eating the freshest possible produce, saving yourself money, and doing your bit to help the planet. So give it a try today!
Thanks for reading!
Here at Foodlum we're about community, authenticity and the passion of food. If you've enjoyed reading this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook.