Berlin’s first hands-on supermarket
The Adlershof Founder's Lab jump starts SuperCoop Berlin
Berlin’s first cooperative supermarket is scheduled to open in late summer in Berlin-Wedding. The SuperCoop Berlin founders have pushed their project forward with help from the Adlershof Founder’s Lab.
The idea of cooperative supermarkets that belong to their customers is not brand new. The “Park Slope Food Coop” opened as early as 1973 in New York and now has 17,000 shareholders. There are food cooperatives in Paris and Brussels, and initiatives in several German cities, including in Munich, Cologne, and Hamburg. SuperCoop Berlin has now brought the idea to the German capital. Following a test run with small online shop and a pick-up location in Berlin-Friedrichshain last year, its members are now being supplied from a warehouse in Berlin-Wedding. It won’t be long, Johanna Kühner is convinced, and customers can start to fill up as well as emptying the shelves of the city’s first transparent and community-based supermarket. She is one of four members of SuperCoop Berlin’s board.
But what is SuperCoop Berlin about exactly? “It’s about cooperation, participation, and transparency, about being playing a part in changing our food systems with mostly regional, fair, unpacked and organic products,” Kühner sums it up. Customers are members who decide which products go on offer. For that, they work at the store for three hours a month. Savings in operating costs, a transparent profit margin, and reinvestment of profits result in fair prices for both the members and the producers.
“We founded the cooperative in October 2020 and now have 600 members,” says Kühner gladly. After its second crowdfunding campaign in spring, SuperCoop Berlin had achieved its objectives. The initiative required a critical mass of 500 members to cover the down payment for the loan. Every member subscribes to a one-time share of 100 euros. Using this capital, the first step is to build a 250-square-metre supermarket at Osram Höfe in Berlin-Wedding. Moreover, says Kühner, “other pick-up locations are planned in other districts.” She studied political science and business management and came to Berlin via Mannheim in 2019. She had already studied innovation management and entrepreneurship with a focus on sustainability for two semesters, when SuperCoop Berlin made her a business founder. Together with Eugénie Wateau and Jessica Pawlak, her idea of a cooperative supermarket convinced the jury at Adlershof Founder’s Lab this past autumn. All three have since received a one-year scholarship, a desk at WISTA’s co-working space, and numerous support and coaching opportunities. It goes to show that the programme of Adlershof Founder’s Lab includes not only technological but social innovation.
“While we can’t offer fresh products at the moment, the shop will have a comprehensive array of products,” says Johanna Kühner, who is primarily responsible for external communication, finding locations, and planning the shop. The products on offer are selected by the members. “For them to do so, we have jointly developed product guidelines that lay out how products should be sourced and which social and ecological criteria they should fulfil,” adds Kühner. Since every member has a vote, everyone has their say in a democratic way. After all, it is also about making a change together.
Members are fairly diverse, they say, ranging from young people in their early twenties to people in their eighties, and many families. Not only the clientele is international but also SuperCoop’s management board. Johanna Kühner is German, Eugénie Wateau French, and Jessica Pawlak American. Marie Populus, who is also French, is the fourth board member.
The cooperative supermarket is continuing to recruit new members to rapidly expand the shop and the range of products.
By Sylvia Nitschke for Adlershof Journal