Aberdeen students win SAOS Co-op Case Study competition with local co-op shop idea

Katie Insch and Kirsten Glen impressed SAOS with their business plan for a producers’ store in Alford

Two students from the Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) won this year’s Co-op Case Study competition, with their plan for producers’ co-op store.

The competition, run Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS) in conjunction with SRUC, was won by Katie Insch and Kirsten Glen. They impressed the SAOS Next Generation team with their business plan for a co-op store in Alford, Aberdeenshire.

After being given a presentation on the structure and benefits of the co-op model by SAOS, SRUC students had to work together to draw up a marketing or purchasing plan for their chosen agri-business, food or business product or service.

They had to include an executive summary of the co-operative marketing proposal, review the current market for their chosen product, set up costs, practical issues on running the co-op, feasibility and potential for future development, as well as how these fit with wider supply and demand for the product.

Students were asked to think strategically and identify the unique selling points and strengths and weaknesses of the business in the medium term (five years), scrutinising these using SWOT and PEST analyses.

As part of the assignment, they had to prepare a comprehensive development and marketing plan for the co-op including competitor analysis, and review of the market potential, detailing any requirements that a new co-op must meet.

Ms Insch and Ms Glen were chosen as winners for demonstrating a clear need for a co-op of this type in the area. Their research examined population size, household income and employment rates in the early stages of their idea. They argued that this type of co-op would allow producers to take a larger percentage of the retail price by taking an active role in the supply chain.

Anna Robertson, who leads work on the competition as part of SAOS’s Next Generation work, said: “Through their research and local knowledge, Katie and Kirsten demonstrated that there is clearly an opportunity for a co-op of this type to be successful in the area. We congratulate Katie and Kirsten on a great report and thank everyone else who took part.”

Katie Insch said: “We found it really interesting to look into the possibility of a local producers’ food co-op. Through our research we found how hard it can be for small producers to market their produce, particularly through supermarkets, so with such a large number of small producers in Aberdeenshire, we felt there was a gap in the market to supply local produce for consumers, who genuinely want to buy it, closer to work or home. It was great to be recognised for the idea and maybe one day we’ll get to put it into practice.”

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