The last few years have been hard on co-ops, especially ones that had grown accustomed to being the only outlet for local and organic food products. Many food cooperatives, like the Good Earth Market in Billings, Montana, have been forced to shut their doors after decades in business.
There are a number of disadvantages facing co-ops in 2018. Conventional retailers, from Kroger to Costco, now offer what used to be their exclusive merchandise: locally sourced and organic products. Costco, a discount warehouse store that is the antithesis of a co-op, is now the nation’s largest retailer of organic food.
There is also the recent Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods, which will likely drive down the price of the chain's organic products and make them much more accessible online.
Co-ops do have some significant advantages over their well-capitalized competitors, though. They can offer a higher level service. They also stand behind values around health and sustainability, and have a committed consumer base they can leverage.