Brexit and stocking up

Bulk buying clubs in Ireland have few orders left before 31st October and the possibility of huge Brexit upheavals. Any return of import tariffs would particularly apply in the food sector because of the significant additional rates and restrictions the EU applies to ‘third countries’. Even moreso than usual, then, groups have every reason to plan ahead and stock up strategically.

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How many members is ‘enough’?

The idea of forming a bulk buying club may sound like it would involve recruiting lots of people, but that’s probably not the case. Two related pieces of advice shine through a range of published guides to running such a group:

  • Start small
  • If you can, start with people you already know
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Joining the zero waste club?

As today’s Irish Times highlights, a wave of Zero Waste shops and initiatives have sprouted around Ireland and Britain over the past two years, helped by popular campaigns against single-use plastics and a healthy media appetite for the topic. While many of the new initiatives have taken the form of small retail outlets, the bulk buying club model has also been adopted by those looking to go packaging-free, as with London’s Naked Larder.

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Don’t let ‘bulk’ put you off

If you live in a small house or apartment with limited storage, the idea of buying food in bulk may simply sound impractical. However, it’s important to understand that with a bulk buying club, bulk ordering is a collective process which doesn’t necessary mean that individual members and households each have to commit to large quantities. Thus, a group may be ordering 25kg sacks of rice or lentils while making it possible for members to benefit from simply taking a modest share, say of 1 or 2kg. In this way, everyone can benefit from the lowest possible cost per kilo but no-one is compelled to take more food than they can use or comfortably store.

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A welcome Brexit respite

A looming ‘hard Brexit’ during much of March threatened an abrupt end to trading relationships built up by buying clubs over many years. Since 2012, the pop-up wholefoods group in Dublin 1 has been ordering with Suma, Britain’s leading workers’ co-operative. However, they drew up their recent order under a shadow – the UK potentially crashing out of the EU soon after dispatch of what would be their 49th bulk shipment from the Yorkshire-based co-op. Thus, there was a serious chance it would have to be their last, amid the prospect of prohibitive tariffs and regulations kicking in from the end of the month.

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When brands change hands

Unilever’s 2017 buy-out of Pukka Herbs raised the issue of popular organic brands becoming acquisition targets for multinational companies – in this case a huge corporation whose products range from processed foods to detergents, with brands including PG Tips and Domestos, and operations which include palm oil and tea plantations.

This post discusses how widespread this phenomenon has become and explains the advantage that bulk buying clubs have in responding to such shifts.

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Buying clubs on Brexit watch

Many people across the island of Ireland are keeping a close eye on Brexit developments – and bulk buying club members are no exception.

Several groups based in the Republic currently source their deliveries from British wholefood cooperatives, importing without the slightest issue due to the two countries’ shared EU membership. However, in just five months, these small-scale arrangements could become untenable under a potential ‘No Deal Brexit’ bringing the return of tariffs and a range of import procedures. Continue reading “Buying clubs on Brexit watch”