Liberation Foods: 10 years
One of the biggest Fairtrade success stories in recent years is Liberation Foods, which was founded by Twin – the Fairtrade charity famed for setting up Cafedirect and Divine Chocolate. Managing director Kate Gaskell is proud of the progress made, with a current turnover of over £4m and more than 500 tonnes of nuts produced and packaged for the UK and Europe every year. “We were the first to introduce Fairtrade nuts to the market,” she says. Since the launch, the producer/shareholder ownership ratio has increased, she says, rising from a third to 44%.
Suma Wholefoods: 40 years
Suma is the largest independent wholefood wholesaler in the UK. It is also the country’s largest workers co-operative, with 166 members and a turnover of £48m – £12m of which is own-brand products. It was started in 1975 by Reg Taylor, who saw a gap in the market and started selling pulses and rice, allowing small independent health food shops in the area to be able to buy together in bulk. Two years later, he sold the business to seven employees, who decided to run it as a worker co-op.
UK Society for Co-op Studies: 50 years
The society has a focus on publishing research, and promoting the exchange of information on co-operative studies and research. It has held a number of events this year to celebrate its anniversary. A seminar on co-operative and community benefit society law and an annual lecture celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of early co-operator George Jacob Holyoake, plus its annual conference looked at the broad concept of ‘commonwealth’.
The Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative: 50 years
A co-op formed to improve fertiliser supply to farmers in India to help them feed the country has been celebrating a 50-year journey. IFFCO started when the young 1960s generation responded to the ideals of self-help, accountability, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Now it reaches 40 million farmers and has a multinational presence. It has has moved into sectors such as general insurance, agro-chemicals, rural telephony, farm forestry, international trading, seeds and rural retail.
The Co-operative Party: 100 years
2017 marks a century since the Co-operative Party, was established at a special Co-operative Congress at Central Hall Westminster on 17-18 October. Sam Perry (father of tennis player Fred Perry) became the first National Secretary, serving until 1942. Alfred Waterson was elected the first Co-operative Party MP, in Kettering, less than a year after the Party was established in 1918. In 1945, it celebrated its best election win with 23 MPs elected. Today there are 38 MPs – the highest number in its history.
Chelmsford Star Co-op: 150 years
Formed by a group of 18 owners from local ironworks, the Chelmsford Co-op originally sold coal, but now it has 42 food shops, two travel agents, two department stores and seven funeral homes across Essex and Greater London. In its first year, the co-op grew to 800 members and sales of £4,316. Today, there are over 28,000 active members and the society’s gross takings for last year amounted to £103.5m.
• More from 2017 at 2017 In Review