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Food Group Case Study – Ipswich Ripple

ip-ripIpswich Ripple is a large volunteer run food co-op which was established in the spring of 2007, with over 150 members. On the closure of a local wholefood shop a group of young vegans saw a food co-op as a way of accessing vegan and wholefoods at affordable prices. The founders have a broader vision for how the Ripple initiative might foster sustainable development, and empower the disadvantaged people of Ipswich. This is reflected in its early mission statement – Ripple will promote:

• Community cohesion and cooperation
• Personal well-being through education and training
• Affordable services / utilities including retailing of items such as food and clothes
• Accessibility of local community news

Members are a mix of all ages and incomes. They tend to be environmentally aware and are looking to source ecological and ethical products affordably. There are no restrictions to membership, and the co-op is trying to encourage greater local membership especially among the local Portuguese community and those on a low income. Members are kept well informed through e-mail, phone and posters.

The group received two small grants – a £3000 Kick Start from UnLimited (support for social entrepreneurs) for initial equipment, training, publicity and some initial stock and £700 from ACRE (Suffolk Fund). The group raises revenue to cover operational costs (rent, insurance, etc.) by adding a mark up on wholesale values. They charge an additional 3% for members and 20% for non-members. The group is also considering charging 20% to members that do not contribute time to the enterprise.

ip-rip2Produce at their market is made up largely of Suma products but also includes flour from a local mill, tea from a local packer/distributor, local juices, and home produce – members are encouraged to bring their own produce e.g. honey, herbs, eggs. Stock is stored in a secure shipping container on the site. The stock has to be brought out and returned to the container for every trade day, which is time consuming.

Deliveries are made to the group on Friday when they are sorted for the Saturday market or personal collection. In general, items are paid for on collection. There are simple ‘cash box’ checkouts with volunteer cashiers.

The group also organises and supports several social and cultural activities including a café at the Salvation Army hall, a foraging day in local woodland, and bring-and-share meals.

The group has an ambition to acquire a permanent premises with a café for a social focus – tables to sit at and read catalogues, space for other groups to use.

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