Clever Branding Makes a Food Co-op Less Crunchy, More Sexy

One London co-op is selling itself both on good food and good design. Take that, hippies!

The People's Supermarket in London is your classic hippie-dippie food co-op. But you'd never guess it, thanks to a fantastic branding scheme from the British design firm Unreal.

The new identity package elevates the notion of a food co-op, with its collective ideals and crunchy, freewheeling mission, into something improbably hip. "[The branding] needed to reflect the co-op's core values of being communal, affordable and democratic without appearing too virtuous or elitist," Unreal's Ryan Tym writes on the blog Identity Designed.

So Unreal took the Euroslot — a hole punch for displaying products that's synonymous with retail — and turned it into a branding icon. "It has the ability to evolve from a decorative feature on letterheads and business cards," Tym writes, "to forming the handle of bags, or a tab device in in-store signage." Under the Euroslot, you've got the supermarket's name and catchphrase, "For the people, by the people," done up in bold black lettering and set against a sunburst yellow background (the color of members? T-shirts). The concept is totally simple and surprisingly elegant — precisely what you'd expect from high-end foodie outlets like Dean & Deluca, but not a place where you have to work for your food.

Which prompts the question: Does a co-op really need good branding? We think so. Once the sole realm of broke college students and even broker hippies, coops are starting to attract more discerning customers, who probably know and care about design. (Just think of the almost off-putting image that Whole Foods had years ago, when it seemed like the province of all natural stoners.) It stands to reason that with better design, you can attract more members. The more members you have, the bigger your organization and, presumably, the more likely you'll be able to direct resources toward harnessing better products.

It's not like the People's Supermarket spent a fortune on this thing, anyway. Everything was designed so that it could be produced in-house. One of the big expenses was the hole punch. It cost 12.50 pounds on eBay.

For more Co.Design coverage of Unreal, go here.

[Images by Haarala Hamilton Photography courtesy of Unreal]

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  • Jon Fogarty


    I see that you don't get out much. Labeling food co-ops as hippy-dippy stoner havens is about as fresh and fashionable as wearing stirrup pants and jellies.

    Yes, many of the US food cooperatives are crunchy and have their roots in the 60's but some go as far back to the 30's. The co-ops in the UK (and the US for that matter) draw on a much deeper heritage of people banding together to meet their needs stretching back to 1844. Many US food cooperatives are cutting-edge retailers and lots of them do great branding work too.

    FYI, US food co-ops are the originators of the modern organic foods movement which is the fastest growing segment of the food retail industry. Food cooperatives also posted better same-store sales growth over the past two, three and five year periods than Whole Foods Market Inc. Co-ops serve the needs of their communities, do good business and make good money doing it. And yes, food co-ops do make profits.

    Yes, The People's Supermarket did a great job branding themselves. In the future please stick to design and leave market analysis/demographics to the professionals.

    Jon Fogarty

  • puntoverde

    I think the author was making the point that food co-ops do NOT have to be hippy. Let's face it, you and I and many others may know they are not stuck in the 70s, but most people (well, the American public) still thinks of them that way. Not sure of the case in the UK. 

    I love the idea of a co-op model for groceries, and lots of other things, and would love it if you would point us to other co-ops that have done good branding work. I'd be really interested in seeing it if you have any examples in mind. 

    Only one I can think of is the Black Star Brewing co-op in austin tx. And possibly Linden Co-op in Minneapolis?