loblaws boycott

Toronto co-op grocery store says people are flocking to join amid Loblaws boycott

A Toronto co-op grocery outlet has seen an unbelievable surge of interest this month thanks to residents searching out new spots to shop amid a large-scale boycott of Canada's largest supermarket giant.

Tens of thousands of consumers nationwide are vowing to avoid all Loblaw Companies Ltd.-owned stores — and some, even their big chain competitors — in protest of rapid food price inflation, shrinkflation and more in a market dominated by only a couple of major players. 

And, as citizens develop apps and other tools to help one another find new stops for their weekly grocery hauls, places like Karma Co-op in Seaton Village are reaping the benefits, just as their new members hope to by shopping there.

Management at the member-owned food retailer, which has operated in the city for more than five decades, tells blogTO that they saw a staggering 50 per cent growth in signups in recent weeks — a figure they are expecting to grow to a staggering 300 per cent month-over-month increase in May.

"We're definitely hearing from new and trial members that many of them are motivated to seek alternative places to shop due to the boycott," General Manager Zach Weingarten said this week.

"The boycott is also giving our members the opportunity to talk more about the co-op with their network, as people are vocalizing their displeasure with the national grocery chains."

Organizations like Karma allow members to not only enjoy potentially cheaper prices, but also a tangible stake in the group-owned, democratically-run store. Many people are drawn to the positive community aspects of such initiatives, as well as the local, fair-trade, sustainable ethos that normally comes hand-in-hand with the concept.

Karma boasts hundreds of bulk items, organic produce, eco-friendly and zero-waste products, which, along with the ownership framework, can feel like the complete opposite of the large corporate grocers they now take issue with.

Weingarten says that Karma and co-ops like it are able to provide "a more ethical and affordable shopping alternative" that also encourages community involvement, though some operations have not been without their problems.

"Consumers are re-evaluating their shopping habits and seeking alternatives that align with their values. This has led to a groundswell of support for Karma, which has a model that allows it to keep prices down even as it sources high-quality, ethically-sourced goods."

As consumers are halfway through their boycott month and seemingly angrier about pricing and other practices at the big three than ever, the results of this shift from big, convenient chains to smaller stores are surely yet to be fully realized.

Lead photo by

Karma Co-Op Grocery Store


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