Sharing + Saving = Buying Club

Buying clubs offer you the opportunity to make a real difference for small farmers around the world while paying less for your favorite organic and Fair Trade foods.  Order together and get staples like coffee, tea, chocolate, olive oil and more at low wholesale case prices. We’ll ship orders of $75 or more for free.

We’re not talking about ordering a pallet’s worth of coffee!  Although we do offer some bulk products, most products come 6 or 12 items in a case.  And you’re still welcome to purchase individual items at retail pricing too.

Buying clubs not only make financial sense and build community, they also minimize your environmental impact.  They help you use less packaging and achieve a lower carbon footprint by consolidating shipments. Buying clubs are also ideal for folks who don’t live near a natural foods store or food coop and want access to affordable, high quality, ethically sourced products. Ordering together also means a unique opportunity to try-out new products at a lower price than if you had to buy something individually off of the shelf.

Follow these 5 steps for a thriving buying club:

1.Gather your group

Reach out to

  • Family or friends
  • Members of your gardening club, book club, or social justice group
  • Neighbors
  • Co-workers

Pro Tip: Host a coffee or chocolate tasting when you introduce the idea of the buying club. Not only will it make it easier for folks to decide what to order, but we’ve found that once people taste the quality, they are likely to want a regular supply! Use these key talking points to get people on board.

2. Get organized 

Once you have a group together, select a coordinator and a treasurer.

The coordinator:

  • Takes individual orders from members and collects them into one group order
  • Places your group’s order with Equal Exchange
  • Distributes products to members or sets a pick up time and location after the products are delivered

The treasurer:

  • Collects payment from members
  • Pays Equal Exchange within 14 days of each order
  • Loves numbers and is organized

 

3. Plan an order

  • Visit shop.equalexchange.coop to see our full product range. You’ll see price options for an individual item and the discounted cost per case. Buying clubs must purchase a full case of  a particular product to qualify for wholesale pricing, although you are still welcome to purchase individual items at retail pricing as part of your order.
  • For your first order, we suggest limiting the range of orderable items to some of Equal Exchange’s most popular products, but for a larger selection you can print out our colorful product and price list for each member so they can see how many items are in each case and what the cost per item would be if there are enough orders to fill a case. Requiring pre-payment, at least on your first order, is a good way to make sure that the members of your buying club are serious about participating responsibly.
  • Equal Exchange’s best sellers include:

    Pro tips: Ordering 5-pound bulk bags of coffee to share? Order our tin-tie bags for easy  labeling and distribution. If your buying club is small, consider requiring that members purchase products in full or half-case quantities to minimize leftovers.

     

    4. Place the Order

    Gather individual orders from club members. Use our order form, or create your own that includes only the products your group orders.

    Pro Tip:  Order $75 worth of products to qualify for free shipping.

    Then, place your master order:

    You’ll pay in full at the time of your order, but if your group is interested in paying an invoice after receiving the shipment, Equal Exchange allows Net 14 payment terms. To apply for credit terms you’ll need to have one order pre-paid with a credit card then fill out our form agreeing you will pay within 14 days of receiving your order. Contact Customer Service at 774-776-7366 to find out more.

    5. Distribute, Enjoy and Reorder

    When products arrive at the designated pick-up location, have a consistent system for distribution. Collect payment when people pick up their orders, if you do not require members to pre-pay. A payment app like Venmo is an easy system to use. Enjoy your good deals, your good food, and place another order when you have critical mass.

    Pro tips: Why not make the pick-up time a chance to enjoy each other’s company? You could hold a chocolate tasting or taste-test newer product releases. Equal Exchange offers a rewards program where you can earn “beans” to be redeemed for things like discounts!

    If folks tend to want the same products regularly, we’re soon going to debut a subscription order program so buying club members don’t always have to remember to re-order. It can arrive at monthly or on your own time-line.

    You can even expand your buying club to include sharing larger quantities of products from local farms. Imagine the feeling of knowing where almost all of your food comes from and the farmers behind the food!

     

    Not sure buying clubs are for you?

    Read why Edith Stacey-Huber, who runs a successful buying club, chose to start one. Maybe you have some of the same goals?

“The first buying club I started was in the early ‘90s. That club was started out of financial necessity, and as I look back, I was motivated by my view of a monopolized grocery system. There were very few stores, thus the lack of competition didn’t evoke any savings to the consumer. I was also looking for organic food, real food, and there were only two small health food stores in the city.

Since my relatives were farmers it wasn’t outside the box for me to seek out food from farms. Seeing the commitment of our local organic farmers to grow food the way they do, some for years, barely making it, but still staying committed to what they know is right–I couldn’t turn a blind eye to that. I found a small natural foods distributor, gathered a few friends and the first club was born.

Once I started procuring food this way, there was no turning back.  The club model has changed over the years with the obliteration of small distributors, and my deeper awareness of food justice and buying local, but I was always either a key member, treasurer, coordinator, or founder of a club.

Our current club model has taken bolder steps to remove ourselves completely from the commercial food system. Personally, our family has a direct connection to our food and I would say 80 percent of the food we eat, we know who grew it or the source it comes from.

I think consumers have the potential to hold all of the power, if we organize, become diligent in our efforts and become truly informed voters and active in spearheading the changes we want to see.”

  • Edith Stacey-Huber is passionate about food. She is the creator of the food buying club Authentic Provisions just outside of Ann Arbor, Mich. Authentic Provisions aims to reconnect people in the community to the food, land and farmers who sustain them, through collective purchasing outside of the corporate food system. Her quote above has been excerpted from a longer interview with Edith  on our blog from May 2017.

About The Author

Bethany Karbowski

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