CDS Case Study of the Cooperative Local Foods System

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Cooperative Development Services has completed a case study of the cooperative food system in the Twin Cities with particular focus on this as a local foods system operating at scale. Authored by Joan Stockinger of CDS and Dave Gutknecht of Cooperative Grocer magazine with funding provided by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the full study is available for download in PDF format.  

Some highlights of our findings:

  • The cooperative food system in the Twin Cities has developed over a 40 year period, today encompassing 15 retail cooperatives operating 17 stores, in addition to a cooperatively-owned distribution entity.  The system represents the interest of over 91,000 owner-members and an estimated additional 50,000 non-member shoppers.
  • In the previous year, the system generated $179 million in sales, with an estimated 30% of that representing sales of locally produced/processed products, and generating about $31 million in farm gate income.
  • The system supports an estimated 300-350 local farmers, food processors and other local suppliers.  A key part of the support system is Cooperative Partners Warehouse, a cooperatively-owned distributor of organic and local products.  CPW provides key services, including cross-docking, that provides cost-effective distribution options for local producers.
  • The system has grown significantly since inception.  Over the past 10 years, the number of new owner-members of the system has averaged 100/week.  This growth is resulting in increased investment in store expansions in the metro area, with at least four such expansions anticipated in the next couple years.
  • In spite of the growth in consumer owner-members, and the corresponding increase in total purchases of local foods, stores and distributors report that the system is currently operating near capacity as regards its ability to take on new local suppliers.  There is a belief that current producers/processors are capable of supplying near term local product needs (and in fact may be depending on this growth for their own efforts to get to/remain “at scale” in their own businesses).  How long this condition may persist is unknown, and a topic for additional needed study.

CDS and the authors are available to discuss the findings of the study with interested cooperatives, co-op related groups, and local foods groups.  Contact us at with inquiries.


Available for DownloadTypeSize
TwinCitiesCoopStudy-4-10-14.pdfPDF4.94 MB
Twin Cities Co-op Local Food System PowerPoint 10-10-14.pdfPDF812.35 KB