As we’ve noted in past blogs, co-operatives operate in all industries, often going unnoticed. Many co-operatives have recognizable brands, but do not necessarily tout their business model. Here are 3 co-ops you probably didn’t know were co-ops.


Owned by thousands of citrus growers in California and Arizona, Sunkist has been in business as a co-operative since 1893. Many of the growers are family farms passed down through generations.

Sunkist owners grow oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, tangelos, grapefruit, and mandarins. Sunkist itself distributes the produce, as well as value-added products made from the raw product, internationally. You’ve likely seen many of these products in the produce and juice sections of your local grocery store.

Sunkist also has licensing agreements with trusted food producers, such as Ganong and General Mills, and these partnerships produce fruit snacks, fruit gems and jelly beans, as well as Cadbury Beverages and Dr Pepper Snapple soft drinks.

Farmers with shares in Sunkist are able to access these expansive, growing markets because of their share in the co-operative business, which is an excellent way to formally work together to increase the value of their raw products.


A recognizable brand across Canada, Pharmasave is a marketing co-operative based in Langley, BC with over 600 independently-owned stores operating in 9 provinces.

Founded in 1981, Pharmasave touts itself as being ‘Canada’s Community Pharmacy,’ and likes to highlight each store’s local ownership in its marketing.

These independent entrepreneurs benefit from purchasing a share in Pharmasave. In fact, the co-operative says their shareholders gain “access to the most comprehensive retail and professional programs in the industry and benefit from the power of a strong and trusted national brand.”

Operating similar to a franchise, Pharmasave is actively seeking new entrepreneurs to become shareholders in the co-operative, and expanding the Pharmasave brand and network.


One of the largest and most recognizable insurance companies in the world was started almost a century ago by a few hundred Ohio farmers looking to have their auto insurance prices better reflect the fewer accidents they had relative to city drivers.

Today, Nationwide Insurance manages over $150 billion in assets, is a Fortune 100 firm, and is celebrating over 85 years in business.

In mutual insurance companies, when a person purchases a policy they become an owner of the company, which is quite different from a co-operative with shares because this ownership does not come with equity. Also, while Nationwide Mutual Insurance still exists, the company has acquired numerous entities, which has expanded their scope to include mortgages, mutual funds, pensions, health care, and many other financial services. One of these subsidiaries was even publicly traded briefly. So, you should be forgiven if you missed the co-op-i-ness in this conglomerate.

Nonetheless, Nationwide is a success story. Because, at its heart, Nationwide is still a story of farmers working together, pooling funds and doing a great job of it. So much so, the legacy they’ve left has impacted millions, and left along with it an irritatingly catchy tune.

Big or small, young or old, co-operatives can operate in any sector of the economy providing services, creating wealth, and capturing opportunities. If you’re thinking of starting one, contact us. We’d love to help.