Co-ops & The Competition: What’s The Difference?

New Pi's Vice President Report by Jon Fogarty, printed in our 2017 Annual Report:

I’m not simply going to tell you that spending your dollars with locally owned businesses keeps them in the community – we’ve all heard it a million times, and it is all true! But let us talk about mission, dedication, and relationships.

Jessica Stutsman & daughter Sophie of Dirty Face Creek Farm grow local, organic herbs for the Co-op.


As a consumer-owned cooperative, our long-term goal – your Co-op’s mission – is to serve you by growing our local and regional food system, which requires being a successful grocer. The natural/organic channel of the grocery industry has seen a number of new chains start up in the last eight years, fueled by either going public or having a private equity firm buy a piece of the company. Their business plan across the board is to open a bunch of stores and then sell the company: they are purely financially driven.

USE2Jeanne Hansen & Karen Sewick of local Hansen's Dairy serve Co-op cake made with their cream at the annual Iowa City Culinary Walk.


This increased competition in our area has led us to increase our focus more and more on what we sell and who we buy from. With increased competition, the national brands we’ve carried for decades are now available in more places than ever before.

Food co-ops have been leaders in the natural/organic channel of the grocery industry for years, but...

the competition continues to slowly copy the practices we have pioneered. While this is a good thing, they unfortunately don’t copy our practices with the depth or dedication needed to benefit our local community.

USE4James Nisly of local Organic Greens offers samples of his organic sprouts at New Pi Iowa City's Street Party last August.


Looking at eastern Iowa, no one has been able to come close to New Pi’s ability to work with small food manufacturers, as well as small- to medium-scale farmers and ranchers producing high quality food. New Pi depends on the health of these farms and ranches for our livelihood as much as the farmers and ranchers depend on us as a venue to sell their products. Those relationships represent a mutually beneficial existence for producer and retailer. New Pi has been very effective at increasing our local purchases and, in turn, contributing to growing our regional food system.

We have worked hard to more than double our sales of local products from $1.44 million/year in 2010 to $2.92/year in 2016.

I encourage you to look at how many local producers the competition has on their shelves and compare that to what you find at New Pi. This exemplifies our dedication to our local producers and our owners, developing local relationships to source healthy, local foods.

USE5Jake Gratzon (left) & Matthew Mesaros (center) & company of Old Capitol Food Co. make local, organic tofu for the Co-op (it's in all of our tofu dishes!)


We know that you have more options these days for where you purchase your milk, frozen burritos, and potato chips. We want you to know that we are here to serve you and grow our regional food system. That is our mission as a business.

Where you spend your dollars matters, and when you spend them at New Pi – on national brands or on local products – you are helping us grow the region’s food system. Regardless of what you purchase at your Co-op, those purchases directly support Iowa’s food producers. – Jon Fogarty, New Pi Board Vice President

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