Manchester’s Unicorn Grocery worker co-op three finalists in the ‘Best Food Retailer’ category of the BBC’s national Food & Farming Awards 2017, while South Lincolnshire’s Seed Co-operative is up for the Future Food Award.
There are three nominees in each category. The awards were established to “honour those who have done most to promote the cause of good food”.
Nominated by its customers, Unicorn was chosen as a finalist out of 528 food retailers put forward for the award.
Unicorn, a wholefoods grocery located in Chorlton, South Manchester, was founded as a workers co-operative in 1996 to provide wholesome and affordable food, drink and household products.
Known for its range of organic fruit and veg and store cupboard staples, it aims to trade responsibly while pricing competitively with the major supermarkets.
Co-op member Debbie Clarke said: “We are so excited to be in the running for this award, which has previously been won by some of the most remarkable food businesses in the UK.
“We’re especially proud to be representing what can be achieved as a workers co-operative – a business owned and collectively run by its workers. We’re over the moon that our customers have put us forward for this, the loyalty and support we get from our community is just amazing.”
Unicorn last featured at the awards in 2008, when the co-operative won the same category jointly with Conrad Davies’ Spar in Pwllheli, Gwynedd. Since then it has more than doubled in size, growing from around 37 worker-members to 72 today.
Another category, the Future Food Award, has the Seed Co-operative as a finalist. The community-owned company breeds “open pollinated seeds that everyone can grow, everyone can save for the next year, and everyone can afford,” in a bid to improve sustainability and protect biodiversity.
The award looks to honour “cutting-edge innovation and pioneering work that could influence how the UK’s food will be grown, distributed and sold in future”.
Based on a 24-acre site at Gosberton Bank Nursery, it has glasshouses, a rainwater-fed reservoir for irrigation and buildings for seed processing, machinery maintenance and storage, it wants to create “a hub for processing seed produced by a network of small organic or biodynamic growers around the UK”.
David Price of the Seed Co-operative said: “We are delighted to have been given this chance to tell our story about the future of food. Food is not ‘man-made’ but produce of the natural world and it all starts with seed.
“We are bringing seed production back home and re-connecting farmers, growers, gardeners, chefs and ‘people who eat’ with the natural world, through co-operation. Vitality, diversity and resilience is what our seed is all about.”
The finalists in all nine categories were announced on Radio 4’s Food Programme on Sunday, and award judges will soon be visiting them to make their decision. The winners will be announced on 8th June at a ceremony in Bristol.