The equipment and other resources you may need to run your food co-op include the following:

Please note the listing of specific products or services on this website does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by Sustain.

Tips on buying equipment:

  • Try to get three quotes from different suppliers so you can compare prices;
  • The cheapest is not always the best - make sure whatever you order meets your specifications;
  • Try to find a local supplier in your Yellow Pages, you may get better advice and support, and somewhere to go if you need something repaired.
  • Advertise on Freecycle for resources - this can be a good source of office furniture or old fridges.
  • Any retail or catering supplier may be able to supply most of the items on this list e.g. or

Electronic scales

It is normally best to get electronic scales rather than manual ones with weights as they need to be stamped and approved by Trading Standards. Also electronic scales can be used to calculate the price of produce as well as the weight. Before ordering try to work what the maximum weight of produce you are likely to supply as this will affect the price. Most scales are rechargeable and so will be able to run on battery power outside for a certain length of time. Electronic scales are available from the following suppliers they cost from around £150 upwards:,

Cash till or cash box

Most food co-ops that have electronic cash tills run stalls that have quite a large number of customers. If you are running a stall with fewer customers or a bag or box scheme you may only need a lockable cash box. Electronic cash tills cost from around  £50 to £250 and are available from the following suppliers:,

Paper bags and carrier bags

Paper bags are useful for bagging up small items of produce e.g. new potatoes or mushrooms, and also those that may be easily damaged e.g. peaches. If you are running a bag scheme you will also need carrier bags to pack your produce in. However, if you want to avoid having any plastic bags you can simply use old ones or ask your customers to bring their own - and could offer a small discount as an incentive. Alternatively you could get fabric bags printed and sell these at your food co-op for anyone who hasn't brought a bag. If you are selling wholefoods by weight you could also ask customers to bring their own containers. Paper bags, carrier bags and other packaging are often available from Cash and Carry stores and also some wholefood wholesalers. Recycled brown Kraft paper bags normally cost from around £5 per 1000 depending on the size.

Cardboard boxes or plastic crates

If you are planning to run a box scheme you will need sufficient boxes to supply your customers for at least two weeks in a row, based on them returning them every week. Be aware that even with a deposit system, lots of people are very bad at returning their boxes and may also leave them out in the rain which will mean they won't last as long. The main options for boxes are either to get cardboard boxes or plastic crates. It is a good idea to get those that can stack or fold up so they take up less spaces both in your premises and people's homes. 

If you are starting on a small scale you can use the boxes that the produce comes in as a lot of these are quite sturdy and work well. These boxes and crates are also really good for displaying produce on stalls - so keep hold of as many as you can. Alternatively you could use wicker baskets to display produce on stalls.

Delivery vehicle

If you are going to purchase a van the best place to go is to your local dealer so that you can view and test drive any vehicles. If you have received a grant you also need to check whether you are able to purchase a second hand vehicle. In order to reduce their impact on the environment some food co-ops have converted old milk floats that run on electricity or alternatively use biodiesel. Other food co-ops prefer to use bicycles and trailers to deliver their produce Leafcycles in Northampton currently have bicycle trailers for sale. If you are going to have a mobile store you will need to have your vehicle specially converted and to assess the cost of this before going ahead with purchasing a van.

Shopping baskets

Plastic or wire shopping baskets costs from around £3.50 upwards. There are available from the following suppliers You may prefer to get wicker baskets although these will probably cost more.

Price labels or blackboard

In order to meet Trading Standards requirements you nearly to clearly label prices along with the type of produce and in some cases the variety. You could do this either on individual price labels or on a blackboard. A lot of food co-ops print out price signs on paper or hand write them. However you can get spikes or card holders to make them stand out more. The following suppliers sell price labels or blackboards:,

Knife or scissors

Sturdy scissors for frequent use can be bought from craft shops or a specialist supplier such as Salamander Cookshop.


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0203 5596 777

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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