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Abstract

The demand for natural foods has been growing steadily over the past decade. As more mainstream grocers and investor-owned, natural food chains respond to this increased demand, the viability of local, independent natural food co-ops (TCNFCs) was used to assess organizational options. The study employed a customer survey to determine characteristics and preferences of co-op shoppers. The survey results were used in conjunction with a schema that analyzed the interaction among market forces, store differences, and customer factors to make recommendations to the TCNFCs. This analysis suggests that in the short run, these stores should employ a federated cooperative structure to accommodate a city-wide co-op membership and increase joint ventures among the co-ops. In the long run, the scale and scope of the federated co-op should be increased to enter new markets as a centralized co-op.

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