Published 7 Jul 2017
The Midcounties Co-operative has been awarded Leading Co-op of the Year for the third time completing a hat-trick. The vote was organised by Co-ops UK, the body representing all co-ops and was announced at Co-op Congress in June. The award announcement also coincided with the start of Co-operative Fortnight which ran from 23 June to 7 July.
Ben Reid, Group Chief Executive Officer of Midcounties, said, “As a member owned Society this award is particularly important to us because it was voted for by our members. We have been previously voted Co-operative of the Year twice in 2012 and 2015, so I want to say a particularly big thank to everyone who helped us achieve the triple in 2018.”
The Leading Co-op of the Year award reflects the Society’s ongoing commitment to its members, colleagues and the communities it serves throughout its trading area. The Society’s impact in the communities in which it trades has also led to it being awarded the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: Sustainable Development and, for the second year in a row, a 5 star accreditation by Business in the Community in their Corporate Responsibility Index.
‘We sell the honey to the nearest store, so customers get something often made just three or four miles away,’ Oliver says. ‘The Best of Our Counties range reduces food miles and keeps money in the local economy. ‘If bees have collected pollen and nectar from apple blossom, their honey is very light, while bees that have been around heather make dark honey,’ he adds. ‘They all taste different too: borage honey is sweet, heather honey tangy.’
Oliver and his dad handle the bees and can call on the expertise of beekeeper Stephen Loughborough ‘The first couple of times at the hives is quite scary,’ Oliver confides. ‘It’s pretty noisy with 60,000 bees flying past. You don’t know how they will react, but they aren’t aggressive like wasps. I’ve never been stung.’
Each hive produces up to 27kg of honey each summer. A ‘smoker’ is used to make the bees more docile when the frames are removed. These are spun in a centrifuge so the honey drips out, to be collected. ‘We’re doing our bit for the planet,’ says Oliver.
‘A high percentage of the pollination of crops is carried out by bees. Without them, we wouldn’t survive longer than three years because our food supply would run out.’
Oliver’s next project is to take the company’s two glass observation hives into Midcounties Co-operative stores (he has already met members at our recent AGM), so shoppers can see the bees in action and taste the honey.
‘Bees are fascinating,’ says Oliver. ‘We still don’t know exactly how they make honey. I love honey for its taste, but it also sums up how amazing nature is.’