When New Pioneer Food Co-op was formed in 1971, its founders were committed to environmental stewardship and sought food that was naturally delicious and healthy.
After more than 40 years in business, the Co-op continues to offer local, organic food to the Iowa City, Coralville and Cedar Rapids Corridor. More than 33,000 community members own a share in the Co-op and with the recent opening of the company’s Cedar Rapids store, ownership continues to grow. We talked with Marketing Manager Jenifer Angerer and CFO Tim Skaar to learn more about what’s going on at the Co-op.
What does it mean to be a Co-op?
Jenifer: Co-ops are independent, locally owned and controlled organizations created for the benefit of their owners. As a consumer-owned and democratically governed organization, New Pioneer can focus on things other than just profit generation. When you invest in your local cooperatively owned grocery store, you are supporting local farmers, organic foods, and environmental sustainability.
New Pioneer invests in our community through outreach and educational programs such as New Pi Soilmates, which is an interactive organic garden education service designed to complement and reinforce teacher’s existing curricula throughout the Linn and Johnson County schools. Owners also help guide the future of the Co-op by voting in Co-op board elections.
Our owners support the local economy by shopping at the Co-op. In turn, the Co-op bolsters local farmers and food producers by providing a market and support for their products. Every $1,000 that is spent at the Co-op generates about $1,600 for the communities we live in.
You mentioned local farmers and food producers. Tell us more about how you stock your shelves.
Jenifer: At the Co-op we try to make it as simple as possible for our customers to trust their food. We have a strict policy, where we do the label reading for you. We currently support more than 125 local producers with purchase agreements, prominently featuring their products on our shelves, highlighting their stories, and providing owners a 5 percent discount on handpicked local items. We define “local” as within the state of Iowa and within a 250-mile radius of New Pi stores.
In addition to your stores in Iowa City and Coralville, you recently opened a new store in Cedar Rapids. Tell us more about the new location.
Jenifer: We opened our doors in December 2014 and things have been going well. The store itself is very similar in size to our Coralville location. It features a full-service deli with hot table and salad bar, indoor and outdoor seating and of course, products sourced locally from across the region.
You’ve banked with MidWestOne for a long time. What do you like about the bank?
Tim: They’re super easy to work with and have great customer service. We work with them on a daily basis and they’re always very quick to help us out when something isn’t right. I like that I can call them directly whenever we need something. You’re not calling a 1-800 number in another country – they’re just down the street. It’s great, local customer service.