Food co-ops lead industry in 2023 sales of local, organic and fair trade


Food co-ops that belong to National Co+op Grocers (NCG) last year led all food retailers nationwide in percentage of sales derived from local, organic and fair-trade foods and products. Local sourcing was particularly notable—with the average co-op sourcing from 169 local farms and producers.

These are among the many findings in the just-released 2023 Food Co-op Impact Report, NCG’s annual analysis of the collective economic, social and environmental impacts and achievements of its community-owned member food co-ops.

Now with 161 food co-ops, NCG continues to grow its membership and hone its services, ultimately seeking to maximize members’ success, inclusivity and impact, and to grow the cooperative grocery sector in size and scope in an environmentally regenerative manner.

Today, more than 1.3 million U.S. residents belong to an NCG food co-op.

Food Co-ops Lead the Industry in Local Sourcing

Food co-ops are industry leaders when it comes to supporting local farmers and entrepreneurs. The average NCG food co-op purchases from 169 local farms and producers, far outpacing similarly sized food retailers (operating between 1-10 stores), which in 2023 reported to FMI working with an average of 41 local farms. Twenty-two percent of the average food co-op’s sales come from local products.

Because co-ops are owned by their communities, they support a range of smaller nonprofits, schools and community groups that often miss out on corporate funding. Collectively, food co-ops donated more than $12 million to local groups last year, and NCG contributed an additional $875,000 to organizations working to advance co-op’s advocacy priorities at regional and national levels.

National advocacy partners in 2023 included Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (National Alliance of Farmworker Women), National Black Food and Justice Alliance and the National Farm to School Network.

Climate Leadership for a Regenerative Future

Many NCG food co-ops were among the first places shoppers could find organic products and zero-waste bulk options and they remain leaders in organic product sales, and advocates for plastic reduction. NCG reports that 38% of food co-ops’ combined annual $2.5 billion sales come from Certified Organic products, leading the industry with other natural grocery retailers coming in with organic products at 23% of sales while conventional grocers report just 2.5% (according to 2023 SPINS data).

Not only is organic much safer for farmworker health, organic farming is the original “climate smart” agriculture. As a regenerative system, organic methods decrease greenhouse gas emissions by building soil health for greater sequestration of carbon dioxide and eliminating the need for nitrogen-based fertilizers. NCG is a member of National Organic Coalition and Organic Trade Association, joining both groups to advocate on Capitol Hill for strong national organic standards.

In 2023, NCG was the sole sponsor of a national conference focused on reducing plastic along the organic supply chain, convened by The Organic Center. The event brought together farmers, scientists, policymakers and federal regulators to discuss opportunities and challenges in reducing plastic use.

Economic and Social Justice Food Labels

NCG reports Fair Trade Certified products made up 5% of food co-ops’ total sales, higher than other natural grocery retailers (3%) and conventional grocers (0.5%).

Sales of B Corp Certified products made up 8% of the average food co-op’s total sales, higher than other natural grocery retailers (6%) and conventional grocers’ (2%). B Corp Certification is a label that speaks to a company’s rigorous commitment to social and environmental sustainability. NCG has been a certified B Corp since 2011.

Cooperatives are businesses that adhere to international principles reflecting a set of social and economic values. Among these principles is cooperation amongst cooperatives, to show solidarity within this important business model. Food co-ops prioritize products that are made by other co-ops, such as dairy, chocolate and coffee farmer co-ops. Cooperatively produced products make up 5% of food co-ops’ total sales, higher than natural retailers (3%) and conventional grocers (1%).

About National Co+op Grocers

National Co+op Grocers (NCG), founded in 1999, is a business services cooperative for retail food co-ops located throughout the United States. NCG helps unify food co-ops in order to optimize operational and marketing resources, strengthen purchasing power and ultimately offer more value to natural food co-op owners and shoppers everywhere. Our 161 member co-ops operate more than 230 storefronts in 39 states with combined annual sales of $2.5 billion. NCG is a winner of the dotCoop Global Awards for Cooperative Excellence and a certified B Corp. Find a map of NCG member co-ops. To learn more about co-ops, visit

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