“We serve our members and community and strengthen our local food system by providing the highest quality, local, sustainable, and organic products at reasonable prices, in a welcoming environment, with exemplary customer service.”  – Kootenay Co-op Mission Statement

Our store’s buying practices are guided by our Buying Committee, a team of Co-op staff who interpret our Mission, Vision, and Values to put products on the shelf. We choose products that are healthy for our bodies, our communities, and the Earth and that meet the needs of our members.

In other words, we do our homework on every product we carry!

We also build in flexibility with our guidelines, so that we can respond to our member’s requests, help local businesses succeed, and make grocery shopping at the Co-op accessible for everyone in the community.

Our members can take heaps of pride in these guidelines! It is significantly because of our members that we have direction on the most important criteria to consider when sourcing and selecting products and reviewing existing ones. Here are some of the most important:

 What we look for:

Certified Organic

Our unwavering commitment to Certified Organic foods stretches back to our inception in 1975.  Purchasing Certified Organic foods is the best way to avoid GMO contamination, support healthy food and farm systems on a large scale, and ensure that there is third-party oversight of production and distribution methodologies from the soil right through to our store.

 True Local

“True Local” is how we at the Kootenay Co-op define and label products grown or processed in our bioregion; within 160km or 100miles from our store! Why do we think this is important? Because we believe that purchasing from our bioregion is an investment in the future of our food security and the economy of the area that immediately surrounds us. We make every effort to support agricultural and food processing initiatives in our bioregion that are in line with our Buying Guidelines and values.

True Local bioregion

  • West to Grand Forks and Midway
  • East to Creston / Canyon / Lister and East Kootenays to Invermere and Fernie
  • North West to Nakusp including Arrow Lakes region
  • North East including Kaslo, Meadow Creek, Trout Lake, Argenta and Johnson’s Landing
  • South to the US border

Fair Trade

We support and promote products certified by Fair Trade Canada and its governing body Fair Trade International as well as grassroots Fair Trade movements across the globe that fall under the Fair Trade International umbrella.

We will retail products certified by Fair Trade USA, but we have ethical issues with Fair Trade USA’s 2012 split from Fair Trade International.


We prefer seafood from reputable sources that adhere to “Ocean Wise” standards. These criteria are as follows:

  • Abundant and resilient to fishing pressures;
  • Well managed with a comprehensive management plan based on current research;
  • Harvested in a method that ensures limited by catch on non-target and endangered species;
  • Harvested in ways that limit damage to marine or aquatic habitats and negative interactions with other species.

Products and Ingredients we avoid:

Genetically Modified Organism’s (GMO’s)

We recognize the potential health and environmental hazards associated with Genetically Engineered (GE) foods and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in our food chain.  Working outside of the confines of natural possibilities, these alterations leave a risk of unknown consequences to the ecosystem and public health.

We believe the best way to avoid GE and GMO products, is to consume only Certified Organic food.

We accept and embrace responsibility on behalf of our Members for disseminating information and advocating against GMO’s.

We recognize that consumers expect natural and organic products to be free of GMOs and are endeavoring to meet that expectation to the best of our ability.  Therefore we are no longer accepting new non-organic food (not supplements) that include more than an estimated 2% GMO high-risk inputs as listed in the Non-GMO Project’s Appendix B (excluding Animal Derivatives,) unless they are enrolled in the Non-GMO Project or can provide us with a detailed description of measures taken to avoid GMO contamination.

GMO High-Risk Items:

The Kootenay Co-op requires less than 2% (by combined weight) of the following ingredients:

Crops:    Alfalfa, Canola, Corn (excluding popcorn,) Cotton, Papaya, Soy, Sugar Beets, Zucchini, Yellow Summer Squash.

Processed/Processing inputs and ingredients, and related derivatives, derived from crops, livestock, or microorganisms:    Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Ethanol, Flavourings (“Natural” and “Artificial”,) High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrin, Microbial Growth Media, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein,Vitamins, Yeast Products.

Additives & Preservatives

We will prioritize products free of artificial coloring, chemical additives, preservatives, and flavourings.

We strive to be as diligent as possible looking for the cleanest, most wholesome products possible while also weighing member demand for bridge products.


The Co-op exists to fulfill our member’s mission. We hope you will become part of this on-going dialogue!

Have more questions for us about our Buying Guidelines? Great! Contact our Store Operations team.