At Bloomingfoods, we want to be an information resource for our shoppers, member-owners, growers, and employees. Have a question? Feel free to submit your questions and we would love to help you find the answers you seek! (Email us). You may also fill out our online form by clicking here!
Q: What is a co-op, and how is it different from a corporation?
A: Co-ops exist to meet the needs of their member-owners, who typically buy the goods and use the services provided. Co-ops have to remain financially viable, but they prioritize service over profit.
Here is an overview from Forbes magazine.
Q: Do I have to be a member-owner to shop at Bloomingfoods?
A: Absolutely not! We are happy to serve everyone who visits our stores. You may eventually join the co-op to receive the benefit of special sales for owners, but there is never any obligation to join. (The reason we ask for member-owner numbers when customers check out is so that they receive any member only discounts and an accurate rebate when we issue patronage rebate checks.)
Q: Is all of your food organic?
A: No, but we do offer a lot of organic foods, and many local products that are grown by organic standards but not USDA Certified. Smaller farmers are allowed to sell a certain dollar amount of goods annually without certification if they follow the key production practices.
Q: What does organic mean?
A: There are different levels of certification, each with specific requirements.
On foods like fruits and vegetables, look for a small sticker version of the USDA Organic label or check the signage in your produce section for this seal.
The word “organic” and the seal may also appear on packages of meat, cartons of milk or eggs, cheese, and other single-ingredient foods.
Foods such as beverages, snacks, and other processed foods use the following classification system to indicate their use of organic ingredients.
100% Organic—Foods bearing this label are made with 100% organic ingredients* and may display the USDA Organic seal.
Organic—These products contain at least 95–99% organic ingredients (by weight). The remaining ingredients are not available organically but have been approved by the NOP. These products may display the USDA Organic seal.
Made With Organic Ingredients—Food packaging that reads “Made With Organic Ingredients” must contain 70–94% organic ingredients. These products will not bear the USDA Organic seal; instead, they may list up to three ingredients on the front of the packaging.
Other—Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may only list organic ingredients on the information panel of the packaging. These products will not bear the USDA Organic seal.
Keep in mind that even if a producer is certified organic, the use of the USDA Organic label is voluntary. At the same time, not everyone goes through the rigorous process of becoming certified, especially smaller farming operations.
Q: Why does organic food cost more than non-organic?
A: Often you will hear that it’s a matter of supply and demand, or that it has to do with a customer’s willingness to pay more. In fact, organic foods cost more because they are not part of the government’s subsidy program, which is administered through the Farm Bill. However, by no later than 2015, organic producers will be able to insure their crops through the Federal Crop Insurance Agency at prices in line with their retail value. Currently organic crops are insured at premiums set for their conventional counterparts, meaning that farmers take a loss in the case of a crop failure or other problem.
A good recap of the current Farm Bill is here.
Organic produce is often very close to non-organic in price, especially if the fruit or vegetable is in season. Be sure to also compare package size and weight, whether fresh, frozen, or canned.
Q: How much does it cost to become a member-owner?
A: The current equity price is $90, which can be paid all at once or monthly at $7.50 for 12 months. Your owner benefits are available as soon as you sign up. There is no annual fee on top of that, or any other hidden costs.
Q: Who decides what goods are sold at Bloomingfoods?
A: Our co-op has a buying team at each location. The store teams make every effort to respond to customer requests for specific products (usually via our comment cards). With our smaller store sizes, we do have to prioritize, but we try to find great products at competitive prices for our shoppers.
Our Board of Directors uses the Policy Governance model, which means that they do not have direct responsibilities for operational things. Read more about policy governance here.
Q: What is the income from grocery sales used for? Where does the money go?
A: 1% annual net profit is the standard in the grocery industry. That’s 1% profit after expenses, a lower markup than just about any retail market sector (for example: autos, furniture, electronics, clothing, cosmetics, optical).
Some of Bloomingfoods expenses are:
62% cost of goods we sell (this is typical in the grocery industry), 27% employee wages, insurance & benefits (11-15% is the grocery industry norm), owner day discounts, building rents & utilities, equipment maintenance & replacement, taxes, community sponsorships & donations, advertising (billboard, magazines, newspapers, newsletter, coupon books, radio).
Q: What is it like to work for Bloomingfoods?A: Currently we have four retail locations, a commissary kitchen, and a business office. As is the norm for retail in general, Bloomingfoods is about 60/40 part time/full time.
Any employee who is full time and has worked with us for one year will be paid a livable wage as calculated by the Cooperative Grocers’ Information Network Livable Wage Model (reviewed monthly by HR). Bloomingfoods pays 100% of the $400 monthly premium for health insurance for each full time employee (for Anthem insurance). Preventative care is included and has no co-pays.
All employees are covered at no cost by our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and are included in our partnership benefits from various businesses, including Revolution Bike and Bean, Mukti Yoga, and Anytime Fitness. We offer all employees a discount in our stores.