The shortlist for the Leading Co-operative of the Year Award 2017: Chelmsford Co-operative Society, Suma Wholefoods, South Caernarfon Creameries.
Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society
Some may consider me biased, as I work for them, but I proudly nominate Chelmsford Star as Co-operative of the Year for the sheer volume of community initiatives, fundraising and additional benefits it has brought to members as it reaches its 150th anniversary this year.
Though small in size for a retail co-op, Chelmsford Star consistently punches above its weight in areas of importance. The Fairtrade Foundation has said: "As a percentage of its turnover, Chelmsford Star has done more for overseas support than any other co-op." Dame Pauline Green has said: "Chelmsford Star may not be the biggest co-op, but it is highly respected and one of the most important to the International Co-operatives Alliance. It is commercially and financially successful and a strong advocate for the co-op movement, so it’s the perfect co-op!" Closer to home, the Essex Business Awards announced it as "Best In Community" with a third of all money spent in its stores reinvested locally.
This year, Chelmsford Star QUADRUPLED the amount awarded as part of their ‘Member of the Month’ campaign, and is donating a free basket of shopping to a different member every week. Meanwhile, it is supporting over 300 local causes as part of day-to-day operations while also successfully operating two of the few remaining co-op-owned department stores left in the world. With food giants and retail behemoths taking over our high streets, please consider voting for one of the little guys, quietly doing its bit for the co-op movement.
2017 marks Suma Wholefoods’ 40th year as a worker co-operative. It has undergone lots of changes but has always stuck to its co-operative principles and values. Having grown from seven members in 1977 to 160 members today, the business is still 100% owned by its members and offers equal pay to all, regardless of the jobs that they do. That’s ‘jobs’ plural - workers multi-skill, so the person taking sales orders on a Monday could be preparing lunch in the canteen on a Tuesday. This helps give everyone an overview of how things operate so they can fully participate in democratically managing the business.
To mark this milestone birthday, Suma has undertaken some exciting initiatives, like investing in suppliers to build co-operation into their supply chain. It has has provided £3,000 to fund new equipment for the coffee growing co-op in Peru that produces Suma Fairtrade coffee, and made a substantial investment in the co-operative eco-factory in Italy that’s responsible for making Suma’s organic pasta. Suma is also taking steps to promote local producers, and worked closely with Little Valley Brewery near Hebden Bridge to craft a special 40th birthday ale – aptly named ‘Strength in Numbers’.
Suma should be recognised for its efforts as a leading co-operative because the business has firmly upheld its co-operative principles over the years. It works closely with Co-operatives UK and other groups to share experience and help other co-ops grow, and is committed to being part of a wider co-operative network across the UK and internationally.
South Caernarfon Creameries
South Caernarfon Creameries was established in 1938 by a group of local dairy farmers as a means of getting its milk to the market, and is still 100% farmer owned co-operative with 130 dedicated Welsh producer members, producing some of the highest quality milk in the UK.
Situated on the Llŷn Peninsula, in the foothills of Snowdonia, we collect milk across all of North Wales and down to Mid Wales. Our mission has always been to add value to members’ milk by producing excellent Welsh cheese and butter under the Dragon brand and for retailer private label. We have developed business with retailers and wholesale throughout Wales and England, and more recently have entered the export market.
Products include Cheddar, Caerphilly, Monterey Jack, Vintage Cheddar with Leeks, Caerphilly with Cranberries, Red Leicester and Double Gloucester, many of which are award winning. Our signature cheese is our Cavern Aged Cheddar which is matured at Llechwedd Slate Caverns, giving a unique product which is proving to be very successful.
We completed our new cheese production facility in 2016 and, after securing significant new business with Sainsbury’s and Lidl, went on to invest in the refurbishment of our packaging facility to increase capacity in retail packs and the ability to produce grated and sliced cheeses.
We plan to continue focusing on the growth of their retailer and export business whilst innovating new products and techniques to ensure we exceed expectations of our customers and be flexible in ever changing markets.