Club, co-op or conspiracy?

This site uses the term ‘bulk buying club’ for a basic idea around food sourcing that has gone by several different names across different contexts and eras. Equally, the concept of a ‘buying club’ may have nothing at all to do with food, so you’ll find the idea of buying clubs for heating oil being promoted in Northern Ireland, with broadly the same goal of people co-ordinating their purchasing power to save money. The focus here, though, is on groups working together on bulk sourcing organic, wholesome food – whatever the name.

These groups may equally be referred to as small food co-ops or ‘pre-order co-ops’, terms which usefully highlight their generally modest membership numbers (which tend to make them both friendly and nimble) and fundamental difference from a retail store – no shelves of produce but a product list from which members order ahead of time and then pay up-front so the order can be placed with the supplier(s). Most, however, aren’t co-operatives in any formal, legal sense but simply more informal instances of co-operation, operating as ‘unincorporated associations’ (so they’re more like a local GAA club than a trading business, run on a voluntary basis by those who benefit).

Sometimes, the term ‘buying group’ is used rather than ‘buying club’, but this phrase tends to be more widely associated with the business world and corporate collective buying to gain savings. Still, if you encounter a ‘wholefood buying group’ then it’s almost certainly what we’re talking about here. ‘Food club’ and ‘food group’ are other terms that serve as further alternatives.

Less commonly used now, but very much in the tradition of DIY food sourcing is the idea of a ‘food conspiracy’, one which carries a more radical tinge from the United States of the early 1970s.

Despite the existing diversity of labels, this site also coins another phrase, too – one  we think is a useful and dynamic addition – the idea of doing ‘pop-up wholefoods’.

About this site

This site aims to encourage and support the setting up of further bulk buying clubs and small food co-ops in Ireland by sharing the experience of individuals who have operated a ‘pop-up wholefoods’ model over a number of years.