Local grocery co-ops going from strength to strength in Catalunya

The flexibility of the model means the co-ops are beginning to challenge conventional supermarket rivals

The number of local grocery co-ops in Barcelona has grown 58% in the last decade ​​from 36 in 2009 to 57 today, according to a recent study.

Ricard Espelt, researcher at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, said these community co-ops are also growing in size – and their flexibility means the booming sector is now challenging its supermarket rivals.

“The model that emerged 25 years ago has been consolidating and extending in all the city’s neighbourhoods, especially in Poblenou, Gràcia and Sants, ” Mr Espelt told Spanish newspaper El Pais. “Most are small, community-focused and self-managed, with 15, 20 or 25 families or groups made up of between two and five people, although some exceed 200.”

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Mr Espelt added that that those co-ops which have created paid employment for their management have a capacity to further increase their scale.

Many were founded on the basis of members contributing both a subscription and volunteer manpower to help with administration. But some, like L’Economat Social, a worker co-op in the Sants district, have changed their business model to accommodate as many people as possible.

L’Economat Social was founded in 2013 with 20-30 families, and that number has now grown to 200, after it changed structure to enable consumer members to opt out of the management of the co-op.

We realised that many families had to drop out of other co-ops because they had children and couldn’t do the volunteer work,” said founding partner Marc Montaner

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The co-op supplies more than 1,000 types of product, including seasonal fruit and vegetables, meats, dairy products, vegetable protein, preserves, wines, beers, even cosmetics and cleaning products,

“The basic range of products is covered,” said Mr Montaner. “Its turnover in 2018 was 100,000 euros, with an upward projection of 20% this year due to the arrival of new partners and the increase in consumption of existing ones.”

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