Why Twin Cities Food Co-ops Haven't Fared as well as Supermarkets in Pandemic

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

Star Tribune | June 20, 2020

When pandemic-related panic buying began in March, supermarkets planted their flag on the front line as essential retailers for the nation’s food supply. Nearly lost in the discussion were food co-ops.

As COVID-19 took hold in the U.S., Co-ops experienced a 5.7% sales decrease nationally in April and a 1.4% decrease in May, according to Census.gov. Twin Cities co-ops fared better than their national cohorts, with a nearly 3% decrease in April and 1% sales increase in May, according to National Co-op Grocers in St. Paul. Most co-ops were caught unprepared for a surge in online shopping when the pandemic hit. “We had to fast track our curbside click-and-collect program,” said Josh Resnik, chief executive of the Wedge and Linden Hills co-ops in Minneapolis. “What normally would take six months we did in four weeks.”

Online ordering remains a work-in-progress for co-ops. Adding more conventional items in the co-op, which are less expensive than organic, is an option that some co-ops are considering. “With 20 million Americans still receiving unemployment benefits, co-ops need to be sensitive to that,” Pugh said. “Some consumers are taking the approach that they can’t afford local and organic, but they still want to support their co-op.”

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