Launched only two years ago at the start of 2020, the Co-Op’s GRO range has taken consumers of plant-based products by storm. Available in 6,000 stores nationwide and packaged in its unique bright green sleeves, the own label range has been aggressively growing its product lines. The products span ready meals, meat alternatives, confectionary, dairy and more.
In Co-Op stores you can find GRO BBQ Chick’n Pizza, sold for around £4, meat-free tender mince for £2.25, Mighty Meatballs for £2.31, as well as a range of ready meals like Creamy Coconut Cauliflower Curry, priced at around £2.80 each. In addition, you can find pasties, cocktail sausages, ravioli, and even plant-based fish and chips. The list is endless.
But why was this range brought into play with such enthusiasm? According to the Co-Op’s Ethical Consumerism report in 2021, the vegan and plant-based market has more than doubled in the last 20 years. Up from £452m in 1999 it is now reaching around £1bn sales. In just a 12-month period, Co-Op discovered that vegetarian product sales rose by over 12%, and non-dairy milk alternatives by 14%.
What is particularly noticeable in this range is the competitive prices that are maintained in comparison to their brand-labelled compatriots which, in this ever-volatile economic environment, can only be a good thing. And the price range itself is just as impressive when compared to its meat equivalent whilst retaining a good quality of product.
Despite their supermarket competition wanting a share of the plant-based market, predicted to be worth approximately $77.8bn by 2025, Co-Op continues to do it their way – with convenience at heart. And convenience is often what customers think of in regard to this supermarket, having won the Free From Convenience Retailer of the Year 2022 from the Free From Food Awards.
Initially launched back in 2011, the Co-Op’s Free From range is similar in its size and scope to GRO. It offers choices for those unable to eat certain allergens, allowing them to access everyday staple products, such as bread and pasta, alongside indulgent treats like chocolate and ice cream.
In a Co-Op media release, Jayne Brown, Co-op’s Assistant Own Brand Strategy Manager for Free From, said: “We’re passionate that our customers, colleagues, and communities have access to safe products – no matter their circumstance. That’s why we have a variety of great tasting products and clear allergy labelling, which we know is so vital to so many people.”
In Co-Op’s 2022 Business Plan it is highlighted that in 2021, the company invested in a total of 94 products in the GRO line and committed £1.1m “to align vegan product prices with meat-based equivalents, removing barriers for members and customers interested in pursuing a meaningful lifestyle change.” This level of investment demonstrates the supermarket’s ambitions.
The document also reflects on the Co-Op’s own 10-Point Climate Plan “which underpins our own mission to be a net zero business before 2040” suggesting a greener way of trading – something that naturally goes hand in hand with plant-based living. What’s more, the Co-Op’s Vision is regularly quoted as wanting to be ‘Fairer for our members and communities’, ‘Fairer for our colleagues’, and ‘Fairer for our planet’.
Is it just the bright green packaging that draws customers to the GRO range? The packaging does make the products stand out on the shelves. The colour green conveys a strong vision for Co-Op’s sustainable aims, while the prices are competitive, consistently undercutting their like-for-like meat equivalents. One thing is for certain, the future for Co-Op’s GRO range is green.