Essential Trading is a worker-owned food co-operative, based in the south west of England. Set up to provide organic, Fairtrade food at reasonable prices, it is committed to supporting independent local businesses, as well as promoting co-operative and community principles.
One of the ways it does this is by encouraging and supporting the set up and running of buying groups around the country. It actively seeks trading relationships with other co-operatives, sourcing own-brand products from co-ops around the world and trading with co-operatives within the UK.
It also uses smaller service co-operatives, and has recently taken out a loan with Co-operative and Community Finance. Essential supports other communities and co-operatives such as Zaytoun by offering them warehousing. “We’ll pick up ethical products which support communities and give them a route to market that they need,” says Eli Sarre, marketing manager at Essential Trading.
Within its local area, Essential accepts a local currency, known as the Bristol pound. Ms Sarre says: “We’re quite a heavyweight company in Bristol and also sell to smaller retail shops or cafés, so by accepting Bristol pounds, it means everyone we sell to in Bristol can pay us in Bristol pounds as well.
“That keeps the money in the local community, rather than going off to tax havens and that sort of thing. It stays within the community.” The Bristol pound accounts for around 5% of the company’s local turnover.