FAQs

What is NCG and what is NCG’s relationship to food co-ops?

National Co+op Grocers (NCG) is a business services cooperative for retail food co-ops located throughout the United States. NCG was formed by co-ops and our member co-ops are owners of NCG.

How is NCG governed?

NCG is governed by our Board of Directors. Every member co-op has a designated representative to NCG, usually the co-op’s generally manager, and these representatives duly elect NCG’s Board from their peers.

Why does NCG exist?

NCG’s Ends Statement describe our purpose as determined by our Board:

NCG exists to maximize members’ success, inclusivity, and impact, and to grow the cooperative grocery sector in size and scope in an environmentally regenerative manner.

NCG offers a variety of purchasing, management, development and marketing services, and facilitates direct co-op-to-co-op support and peer networking. NCG also advocates on behalf of co-ops on a number of issues, prioritized by our owners. While not a chain, NCG does seek to provide food co-ops with many of the advantages that large chain stores enjoy, while still enabling them to reflect the unique qualities of their local communities. Membership in NCG is voluntary, as is participation in NCG’s programs and services.

Does NCG govern its members?

Every food co-op is independently community owned and governed. Individual co-ops are autonomous in their governance, purchasing and staffing decisions, and all other aspects of store operations. All business decisions are made by co-ops’ locally elected board of directors and/or management.

Does NCG push its members to grow?

NCG isn’t focused on growth for growth’s sake. The grocery industry is increasingly competitive and consumer shopping behaviors are continually evolving. NCG helps co-ops understand and navigate these changes so they can continue to meet their own members’ needs, attract new shoppers and owners, and expand the benefits of the cooperative economy to more people and more communities. We help co-ops grow because we believe strongly that a thriving cooperative economy is beneficial to all.

What is NCG’s relationship to UNFI?

NCG acts as a purchasing agent for our member co-ops in some aspects of their business where aggregating purchasing power can save our members time and money. One example is a purchasing contract through UNFI, which allows our members to secure improved costs and deeper promotional discounts on the products they choose to sell.

NCG’s purchasing agreements save co-ops millions of dollars and offer time-savings so that co-op staff can focus on forming deeper connections with local suppliers and other activities that positively impact their local communities.

What is NCG’s relationship to Columinate?

NCG and Columinate are separate businesses.

Columinate is a national consulting cooperative serving mission-driven organizations, including food co-ops, electric co-ops, healthcare organizations, credit unions, schools, and nonprofits.

Like NCG, Columinate works to support successful, independent food co-ops through a variety of services, and is a resource that individual co-ops can work with on a voluntary basis. The consultants who work with Columinate have a deep commitment to and understanding of cooperative ownership.

NCG greatly respects the services Columinate offers.

Does NCG participate in boycotts?

NCG does not sell or distribute food. We represent nearly 150 independent, consumer-owned food co-ops operating over 200 stores in 38 states. Our co-ops are are locally member-owned, member-governed businesses that operate for the benefit of their members and shoppers. As democratic organizations, co-ops make decisions based on the needs and interests of the members and communities that they serve. Therefore, NCG does not endorse any boycott on behalf of our co-ops, but instead supports the right of individual co-ops to evaluate boycott requests according to their own independent processes and policies.