Moscow Food Co-op
Year founded: 1973
Member investment: $150
Number of members: 7,800
Number of employees: 120
Locations: retail store + coffee shop
For a long time, the Moscow Food Co-op had dreamed of “telling beautiful stories” about the co-op. They made the investment in 2015 to launch a co-op magazine called Rooted. Since then, their dreams have come true, and then some. The publication is full of attractive photography and great stories about the co-op, local producers, and the natural beauty of the area. Putting resources into it has really paid off—in good community PR and increased sales.
Before Rooted was launched, the co-op had relied upon a community newspaper that they’d supported to share news about the co-op. However, the community newspaper’s content had diverged, and the co-op decided the time was right to form its own publication. The marketing team set out to envision what that might look like.
“The idea behind it was always to tell beautiful stories,” said Melinda Schab, the co-op’s general manager. “We wanted to showcase why what we do matters and support our local food economy.” Each issue features multiple profiles, recipes, stories about meals and eating together. “It’s been a really fun food education tool, and it’s so inviting.”
It is also a labor of love for her very talented marketing team, who do all the marketing, design and reporting for it. The current circulation is much more widespread than the community newspaper ever was—which is a good thing for a small city with an equally rural shopper base. “We can do a better job with Rooted for reaching people via the co-op and telling important stories.”
Now that they have a platform for telling those stories, they have also concurrently made changes in their operations to go along with them. “We’ve stepped up our game in prepared foods and include more local ingredients in our preparation. Now we are telling our customers about it.”
In addition to what’s in the publication, they’ve also established complementary training programs that also have staff talking about it in the store. “We spend a lot of time talking to staff about our local economy and why that matters, so they understand our commitment to local is different from our competitors.” They carry over the publication’s written and visual brand with the in-store experience, including dynamic demos, recipes and storytelling conversation. “We talk about it every chance we get.”
The co-op recently introduced a “staff pick” for identifying new products. “More often than not they choose a local item, and this provides more education for staff because we put more info out about the ‘staff pick’ product.” Signage in the store also supports the printed and in-person messaging. “We’re real people who care about the food we are selling, and we care about the community, and that’s a different experience.”
“We’ve been working on it, and it shows. By focusing on our storytelling, our produce sales are up 25% and sales of local goods are currently at 40% overall. Our direct economic impact in the local economy last year was $662,000. That’s really awesome for a store our size in the community.”
Schab said that they are very intentional about using the publication to help the co-op meet its Ends. “We are really committed to our ideals, and we believe local food is the future of the food economy. We are making conscious decisions and sharing that info with our customers.”
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