Latest Updates from the Co-op
Greetings from the Co-op! Here is a brief update on some of the latest at the Co-op, including shopper survey results, an upcoming Dinner & Discussion event, and our Front-End Renovation.
Greetings from the Co-op, and happy April! Here is a brief update on some of the latest at the Co-op:
Thank you to everyone who participated in our recent shopper survey. We had a robust response this year, with 1,093 surveys submitted. Participants expressed a high level of satisfaction with our co-op on average. For example, 90% of respondents indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied with our overall customer service, while 91% expressed the same about the store overall. Not surprisingly, price was an area where shoppers asked for improvement. It was gratifying to see such strong satisfaction for our efforts to support the local food economy, have a positive influence on health, and protect folks from the spread of COVID-19.
This year’s survey asked a series of questions about where shoppers go elsewhere for their groceries and why. About half of the respondents said they obtain most of their fresh fruits and vegetables from other sources; these included some obvious ones (like Shaw’s and Price Chopper) but also a surprising number of CSAs and farm stands. Lower prices, convenience, and product selection were the primary reasons cited for accessing produce elsewhere. All this data provides useful insights into what shoppers want and need from our co-op.
It’s Earth Month, and many members have taken the Slash Your Trash pledge. We have also received many comments about reducing the amount of plastic in our store. One way we can all help is by reducing the number of plastic produce bags used for fresh fruits and vegetables, which was approximately 147,000 last year. Options include reusing a bag, switching to a reusable bag, or in some cases skipping a bag altogether. If we can each reduce our bag use slightly, we can make a significant difference in the amount of plastic we use collectively.
On a different topic, the ingredient erythritol made the news recently following the release of a study linking it to adverse cardiovascular events. Erythritol is a low-calorie sweetener commonly used in combination with stevia. We have not completed an exhaustive review of all our products, but we did find erythritol in at least one toothpaste as well as Lily’s brand chocolates.
Given that more research is needed, but there appears to be cause for concern, we decided to take the following steps:
- Inform members about the concerns raised in the study.
- Halt bringing in new products with erythritol unless there is a very compelling reason to do so.
- For existing products that contain erythritol, review alternatives and consider replacing them.
- Stay alerted to further research regarding these health concerns.
We know that many shoppers rely on the co-op to pay attention to the health, environmental, and other impacts of the products we offer and adjust our product selection accordingly. This is an example of an emerging issue where we can do our best to fulfill that important role.
May 18 will be our first Dinner and Discussion with the Co-op Council event since 2019. This is an opportunity for members to gather in person (or by Zoom) and share a meal and dialog about a topic of interest. This year we will hear from an excellent panel of local farmers and food producers with diverse identities. They will share their stories, and our discussion will center around how our co-op community can offer support. The event will be at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center (58 Barre Street), and our Prepared Foods team has an enticing menu planned. Members will be able to reserve a seat by signing up online or in-store starting next week. I hope you can join us!
Our Front End is getting an update. It’s been 15 years since we made changes to the cash register area, so this July, we will be replacing all the equipment and adjusting the layout. This will be the most significant building project of the year, and we will do our best to minimize the impact on our customers. We will share more detailed information with you as it comes together.
Thank you for supporting our Co-op, and I hope to see you soon,
Kari Bradley (he/him)