Pop-Up Wholefoods is a small, informal food co-op (bulk buying club) that has been operating on Dublin’s Northside since 2012. This page runs through answers to its frequently asked questions and explains the pre-order model.
What can members buy?
The same things that a good wholefood shop would sell – organic food, personal care items and household products. Overall, more options are available than are usually found in a shop (especially bulk options) because we are not limited by shelf space or storage. Items are selected by members from a detailed listing and combined into a group order which is then booked for delivery.
What quantities would I need to order? Is it confined to bulk amounts and are there minimums?
We don’t operate any minimum quantities or minimum order values – it’s a collective approach so where there are items in sizes larger than a particular member wants to take outright we have a ‘Splits and Shares’ system where we put them out to the full group to see if we can divide up the required quantity. We do some weighing out from larger packs as a result.
How do prices compare with a store?
You’ll find it’s far cheaper than any other option because of our very low cost base – everything is volunteer-run and our overheads are the bare minimum so what you pay is as close as possible to wholesale price. Stores generally add about 50%.
How are you different to Dublin Food Co-op in Kilmainham?
We say we’re Dublin’s ‘invisible’ food co-op! We explain this is in a separate article. Co-ops aren’t in the business of competing with one another – we run different models in very different areas of the city.
Where do you source the products that are available?
We have a long-standing relationship with Suma Wholefoods, a workers’ co-operative in the UK. We also use an Irish supplier.
How often do you have deliveries?
Once a month. Our regular dates are always the last Thursday of the month (third Thursday in December). Goods are dropped to a central location and members who haven’t been volunteering on the delivery afternoon simply collect their goods on the same evening.
Where is the co-op based?
Most of what we do happens online. Our monthly delivery day takes place in a warehouse space in the Five Lamps area of Dublin 1. Our venue is bike-friendly, has good public transport links and unrestricted street parking nearby.
How does the co-op approach environmental issues?
We’re committed to minimising waste and we aim to support local and more ethical options. This means that a few products that are common in health food shops are absent from our listing. These include bottled water and some highly corporate brands, like Pukka.
Is the co-op vegan?
All items in our listing are suitable for vegetarians, with a high proportion being vegan. We don’t promote any specific path through complex food choices and leave ultimate decisions with members.
When would I need to place an order and make payment?
Our pre-order, pre-pay way of working means we have all relevant dates mapped out a year in advance and make a calendar available, which allows everyone to plan ahead.
Members submit their orders by email, using a simple grid. These are combined into a group order and we then have an online process to try and round out any items where full case quantities are needed. Once individual totals are finalised all orders must be paid in full one week prior to delivery day.
How would I get involved?
We can organise a short introduction session (approximately half an hour) to explain our core principles, how our pre-order systems work and deal with sign-up. Scheduling of these sessions is very flexible and they can take place by phone or Skype. An introduction is necessary to become part of the co-op – and gives a good chance to ask any additional questions you may have.
IMPORTANT – The key thing to understand about the co-op is that the low cost of food and other goods is based on *all members* trading volunteer labour in return for their savings. We do not have any ‘customers’, only active members working collectively and co-operatively. The time commitment is not huge, but it is essential and requires periodic availability on a Thursday afternoon.
What commitment is expected if I become a member?
Membership does not come with a rigid commitment – for example, it is not necessary to be part of every order or to spend a certain amount. We simply ask for a volunteering contribution in line with the frequency with which you buy through the co-op.
Most members contribute a two hour afternoon shift for every two orders they make. Thus, this could mean working on the delivery date one month, say from 3.30pm-5.30pm, and then simply calling by during the evening to collect your order on the next occasion.
Thus, there is no expectation for anyone to volunteer on every order or on one they do not participate in – and ultimately there is flexibility. For example, members who find it difficult to finish work early on a Thursday afternoon may prefer to take a half day’s leave so as to do a double shift once every four orders to meet the work requirement. Some allowance against the standard volunteering requirement can be made for members with childcare responsibilities.
A membership covers a household, rather than being individualised, so two or more adults from the same household may choose to divide volunteering work between them.
In this way, the limited work of running the co-op is shared across the group. All members are co-owners and have an equal say in decision-making whilever they are actively participating.
How do I get more information?
Just fill out the co-op’s Contact Form.