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Garin and Christina Frost of Frost Beer Works

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GM Report: Making Change... PDF Print E-mail

by Sabine Rhyne, General Manager
June 2017

I had occasion to travel to the southeast recently for a National Cooperative Grocers meeting, to hear about the national organization that we own cooperatively with 150 other co-ops in 38 states. It was our annual business meeting, but there were also workshops to learn about best practices with stars from some of those co-ops and NCG staff, and we were asked for feedback on the areas of impact that the NCG is measuring in order to update a survey with more recent data.

We at the BFC are also knee-deep in our own annual planning process, looking at progress on our internal goals as well as what’s happening in our marketplace and what’s trending in our industry. Among the reams of information that we are digesting, a few interesting things stand out that I wanted to share with you.

One is that we are observing a generational transition in shopping patterns. Happily for us, it appears that 87% of people in their 20s and 30s believe that success should be measured in more ways than financial performance. For these young shoppers, values and price are driving their decisions. Or, more glibly, “Value and Values.”

As you know, and reportedly have been noticing, we have been working very hard to address pricing, with lower margins for everyday low-priced staples (Co-op Basics), and careful attention to exciting promotions and deals. And like all co-ops across the land, we have been values-driven since our inception, a mission that we strive to deepen every day. These goals intersect for us as well, such as our practice of lowering margins to offer locally-produced products at the best possible price.

The areas of impact on which the NCG are focusing include: local, community, health and nutrition, great food, and healthy planet. Unsurprisingly, our BFC Ends policies track right along with those. So, as we measure local impact in our annual assessment, which I typically report on to you around December or so, our performance in aggregate with all the co-ops throughout the system will begin to express the breadth of the impact that consumer food cooperatives are having throughout the U.S. As we begin to understand this impact, this also gives us the impetus to set higher goals in these areas. Stay tuned—we can all use some inspiration along these lines!

I don’t need to tell you that facts are important; data are what give us the true measure of change in our food system, and what helps us quantify how we benefit our communities. We see examples of “local-washing” right and left, where multinational conglomerates claim local products that actually come from several states away, or are exceedingly difficult even to find on the shelves. But in our case, we not only have over 460 local vendors on our shelves and measure 37% of produce sales from local farmers, for instance, we also have long and colorful relationships with most of these vendors. We know each other well, and many of them shop here regularly. Heck, we’re on hugging terms! We’re talking real, measurable impact. As my colleague from Wheatsville Co-op in Austin, TX, put it, “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.”

I continue to be heartened by all the community partnerships through which our Co-op is enhancing lives. Yesterday alone, I wandered into a French class from Twin Valley in Wilmington in our Cooking Classroom/Community Room, where they tasted France in the form of delicious palmiers that they had fashioned themselves while conversing in French. Half an hour later, I ran into one of our friends from the BMH Community Health Team who had several ideas about combining a couple of their health programs with Co-op cooking and support, something we already offer but could certainly do more of. 

And great food! Well, there’s no question that we understand our role in that endeavor. Our fresh departments are always looking to inspire and support your explorations into delicious ideas for cooking, or simply for eating, nearly right away. Our culinary department has launched new seasonal options, as they do at every change of season, and can meet the needs of diverse tastes at mealtimes like no other business in town. And the new seasonal cheeses are landing at Cheese Island, while newly-seasonal local harvests are making appearances in the produce cases just about every day. It’s that glorious time of year, when we are truly delighted by the very fresh and colorful.

We have lots of occasions for you to celebrate our community this summer, including what promises to be a wonderful cross-generational event on July 22: the BFC Ice Cream Social! We’ll be working with Kids’ Playce, Boys and Girls Club, and Youth Services to enjoy each other’s company while tasting some fantastic frozen treats.

As we continue to think about the best ways in which we can contribute to helping our community fulfill its promise, we will discuss these ideas with you, in these pages, in the store, and in community meetings. And hopefully, we can share effectively all the ways in which we make progress. Enjoy the summer!

Sabine

Sabine Rhyne
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