B Y L I A S P A N I O L O A N D P H I L H O W A R D
Food cooperatives played an enormous role in the rapid growth and eventual mainstreaming of two of the most successful eco-labels: organic and fair trade. The increasing popularity of these labels has helped to move the food system in more ecologically sustainable and socially just directions. Less-well-known eco-labels are in development that seek to address criteria not fully embodied in organic and fair trade, such as the humane treatment of animals, more localized food production, and support for farmers and farmworkers. With so many choices, however, it is difficult to know which of these emerging eco-labels have the greatest possibilities for success. If co-ops are to continue to pioneer support for initiatives that improve the food system, they need to know: 1) which eco-label criteria are most preferred by their member-owners? and 2) why?
To begin to answer these questions, we recently conducted a series of focus groups with members of three different food co-ops located in southern Michigan and compared them with natural food store shoppers recruited in these same three cities. (We had a total of 47 participants divided among six groups.) We analyzed their general motivations when making food purchases, how these applied specifically to a number of emerging eco-labels, and their level of trust in types of certification schemes. Our findings have important implications for
co-ops, as we describe below. Read More→