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Food heroes nomination: Unicorn Grocery

Posted by Harriet Knowles Campaigner, Manchester

28th Sep 2012

Unicorn grocery Chorlton Manchester bananas

Oxfam are asking you to  nominate your food hero as part of our GROW campaign. Here, Manchester-based Oxfam campaigner and volunteer Harriet Knowles tells us about her first nominee, Unicorn Grocery.

Unicorn Grocery is no ordinary food shop. Based in Chorlton, south Manchester, Unicorn is a workers co-operative selling a tempting variety of food, drink and cosmetics - with a strong emphasis on stocking fair trade and organic produce. Established 16 years ago, the shop has since doubled in size and impact. There are many reasons why Unicorn deserves to celebrated. From the plants growing on its living roof to its inspirational community work this is a business dedicated to sustainability. For me, it's the commitment to greening all aspects of this popular shop.

Unicorn grocery Chorlton Manchester Debbie

Debbie, a co-operative member, explained to me the many ways Unicorn educates and encourages customers to buy local and fair trade. A map near the entrance details where the shop's fruit and veg have travelled from. Debbie explains that "this helps customers connect to the global food system. We also label the origins of all our fresh produce, and highlight our local growers with eye catching cards." Using these methods customers are connected to what is in their baskets and are able to make informed decisions. Some of the food is also grown in 21 acres of land owned by Unicorn, only 14 miles away. This not only reduces the shop's carbon footprint, but also ensures food is as locally sourced.

Unicorn also take their message to school children, encouraging them to think about where their food comes from. They also support the environmental initiatives such as Trees for Life, a Scottish tree planting program.

Like many small businesses, Unicorn has encountered some problems along the way. A wet summer combined with low light levels has caused problems for the farmers they work with, proving that climate change affects us all. Despite this, Unicorn are planning for the future and hopes others will replicate their model elsewhere. Their Grow a Grocery guide (available here) demonstrates that it is possible to recreate Unicorn's successful model in other areas. Debbie's main tip for anyone interested in setting up a co-operative grocery is to "make sure you start with a committed group of people who share the same ethical system, and good communication is essential."

I'm excited to see how Unicorn will develop in the future. Debbie told me: "We have load of ideas for how we could expand, from a biomass converter to an in-house kitchen where we could cook up our food reserves." These deserving food heroes are constantly thinking of new ways to save on waste, and creating a fairer food system for all.

Unicorn Grocery is open Tuesday - Sunday at 88 Albany Road, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 0BN. Tel: 0161 861 0010 or email

Blog post written by Harriet Knowles

Campaigner, Manchester

More by Harriet Knowles