Co-op Group history

Pictured: 13 of the Rochdale Pioneers photographed in 1865

Established in 1844

The Co-op Group has its origins in Rochdale, Lancashire. The Rochdale Pioneers Society was famously established in 1844 based on the notion of ethical trading and belief that the profits of the business should be shared amongst members according to their purchases.

By 1900 there were over 1,400 separate independent co-operative businesses in the UK, all members of a wider Co-operative Movement. During the 1900s, many of these independent societies began to merge. One of the most significant in recent times was in 2000, when the Co-op Group was formed following the merger of the Co-operative Wholesale Society and Co-operative Retail Services. This was followed in 2007 by the merger of United Co-operatives with the Co-op Group. In 2009 The Co-op Food business acquired Somerfield, a rival food business and in 2018 it acquired Nisa, enabling Co-op's own brand range to be stocked in Nisa convenience stores.

Today the Co-op Group is the UK’s largest mutual business, owned by millions of UK consumers.

It is the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer operating across the country with almost 2,800 local, convenience and medium-sized stores. Amongst its other wholly-owned businesses are the UK’s number one funeral services provider, a major general insurer and Co-op Legal Services.

Member owned

Membership lies at the heart of the Co-op. The Co-op Group believes in open and voluntary membership, democracy and member economic participation.

The group, along with Co-op Legal Services, is owned by our members, we manage our business for their benefit and share the profits with them.

However we differ from most other UK consumer co-operatives in that we have both independent society members and individual members. Anyone can become a member of the Group by subscribing for a £1 share.

Social goals

The co-operative model is being seen as increasingly relevant to a more balanced, equitable and sustainable economy. The Co-operative Movement was founded to serve a social purpose, as well as a commercial one.

Co-op members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. As an ethical leader, we exist not just to serve our communities but to contribute to their long term good health. Social responsibility is in our DNA. Since 2009, we have been benchmarking ourselves against the Corporate Responsibility Index (CRI) operated by Business in the Community (BitC). Read the full extent of our ethical credentials and commitment to social goals.

Co-op shopper circa 1969