Provenance alpha

Hello, I’m Cathryn Higgs. As head of food policy I’m constantly looking to find ways we can live and breathe co-op values to help our customers and members.

Picture of Cathryn Higgs

The Co-op has always been a leader when it comes to championing the customer’s right to food that is formulated, manufactured and marketed in a way they can trust. The Rochdale Pioneers set up their own shops to protect workers and provide ordinary people with good food at fair prices at a time when food was regularly not what it said it was – bread flour bulked out with chalk, milk diluted with water and tea that really wasn’t made with tea leaves.

We’ve always campaigned for clearer food labelling and easy to understand nutrition labelling which led to us  introducing a front of pack scheme a decade ahead of the government’s traffic light system. We’re also proud to have been the first to label eggs intensively produced, a technically illegal step but which directly led to the law being changed allowing eggs to be labelled ‘from caged hens’.  

More well-known is our commitment to Fairtrade. We believe that everyone deserves to be treated fairly and take seriously our commitment to improving the lives of people in the communities we trade with. Which is why are still the only retailer to have converted all of our own brand tea, coffee, block chocolate, sugar, bananas and roses to Fairtrade and are proud to be the world’s largest retailer of Fairtrade wine.

Openness, honesty and social responsibility are part of our Co-op ethical values and we have a long history of taking action to support customers right to know about how the products they buy are made and sourced so that they can make an informed purchasing decision and the best choice for them personally.

Right to know – for the digital age?

We’ve started exploring ways we can deliver on this policy using digital and one of the ways we are doing this is by looking at partners who are already leading the way.

We’re working with, a social enterprise using blockchain technology to enable  transparency of data and verification of claims in supply chains, in order to  tell verifiable stories about where our food comes from and how it gets from source to our shops.

Picture of the Provenance alpha team

To do this, we are running an alpha to see what’s possible. Then we will consider the value this could offer our customers and members as part of our commitment to help them make decisions that fit their budget values and ethics.

We’ll update you on our progress as we go. 

Cathryn Higgs
Head of Food Policy

12 thoughts on “Provenance alpha

  1. Debbie Williams September 15, 2016 / 4:15 pm

    As a Co-op Colleague and customer, I love our values and principles. It’s a great thing to be verifying these claims so we know we are truly trustworthy.
    Thanks 😀

  2. Martin rogers September 16, 2016 / 10:51 am

    Great blog Catheryn. Awesome to see the power of digital unleashing the work of this fantastic team and our suppliers for the benefit of members, customers and our supply chain. I hope this is the first of many projects with the food business for digital.

  3. BARBARA September 16, 2016 / 1:22 pm

    When I was regularly shopping for and feeding young children, I used to go with my paper lists of E-numbers – it would be great if this work could be extended to include ingredients, so that someone doing the same as I did could scan the product or check on their phone for suitability, instead of having to read the small print .

    Now I try and buy local or British or Fairtrade goods, and often cannot read the small provenance writing on the pack -or find it on my preferred loose pack veg, as there are no labels – I would love to be able to use my phone to search for or check out these items too.
    Exciting times ! Empowering customers to easily make these choices, could dramatically influence food politics .

  4. smithdavidwales September 16, 2016 / 7:38 pm

    Thanks for this contribution
    Welcome comments on any of the following:
    Q1. Which issues dropped from the Obesity Plan would you most like to see reinstated?
    Q2. In schools, which areas would you most like to see the Obesity Plan strengthened to include?
    Q3. Should sugary dairy drinks be taxed under the Soft Drinks Industry Levy?
    Q4. Any other comments on the Childhood Obesity Plan?

  5. greenman023 September 19, 2016 / 7:10 am

    It’s not not just ‘your’ customers that can benefit here… Have you considered working with your competitors to develop a fully comprehensive track and trace mechanism for all producer, logistic and retailer operators?

    From a SDG (sustainable Dev Goal) perspective building a more comprehensive track and trace mechanism would provide better global and national statistics on food production, transportation, consumption and wastage. Data that can be used to design better more efficient production, supply and waste management methods

    Perhaps more relevant for you as a company is the opportunity for a track and trace mechanism to link small producers and provide the seed for them to develop their own co-operative groups..

    With the blockchain you could export your greatest product: the co-operative concept itself.

  6. Mel Rushton June 7, 2017 / 4:09 am

    Hello, as an Ex-employee proudly following the Co-op’s exploits so happy to see these things happening. There is so much great work your team do and I hope this will help it become better showcased.

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