Ethos - What

Trading since 1971, Essential is one of the largest worker co-operatives in the UK, and a proud pioneer of the wholefood market. Essential Trading wholesales, manufactures and distributes vegetarian wholefoods across the UK and beyond. The business specialises in ethically produced, organic, and ‘free from’ food sourced from all corners of the globe; and never by airfreight.

We are particularly interested in provenance and sustainability. By collaborating with some of the finest brands and producers out there, including co-operatives like us, we are proud to bring you an innovative selection of ethical alternatives and healthy food products. Fully accredited since the launch of Organic licensing, we pack commodities like rice and nuts in our purpose-built facility here in Bristol.

Passionate about nutrition and taste, the emphasis here at Essential is on pure, healthy food and ethically assured products you can trust. The priority is authentic, top quality ingredients, packed with goodness and bursting with flavour. It is these pure ‘free from’ products and devilishly tasty discoveries that give the Essential brand its distinct and very vibrant personality.

As a co-operative, we have always had a strong belief in doing things our own way - the company is entirely owned and operated by its workers. We will soon be celebrating five successful decades in business and there are valuable relationships and individuals here that mirror the company values - each in their own way. The company has a history of sticking to this ‘consciously different’ ethos. For example, the range offers a 100% vegetarian/vegan and GMO-free guarantee, in addition to supporting small producers and independent retailers. We never sell to supermarkets.

Essential Truck

The vast majority of orders are fulfilled using our own dedicated fleet of Essential vehicles, which allows us to be more flexible and responsive than if we used external haulage/courier services. It means we can get to most places with the appropriate vehicle – plus our drivers are members and representatives of Essential Trading Co-operative.

The Essential brand itself includes over 1000 product lines, and contains no artificial colours, flavours or modifiers. Everything is traceable, wholesome, packed with goodness. The range is packaged in bold, bright and distinctive designs that are full of character and reflect the passion behind the brand.

Essential Trading also wholesales around 300 other brands including exclusive artisan ranges and superfood health heroes. With almost 5000 lines of healthy options, quality nutrition and sustainable products – the majority of which are certified organic – this is food you can have faith in.

Essential take away all the hard work of sourcing authentically natural, flavoursome, sustainable food.


Nova worker

Essential's history can be traced back to the year of 1971.

Harvest, a wholefood co-operative located in Bath, consisted of 17-20 members and operated a cash and carry and a small number of delivery runs each day. Harvest had retail customers and sold pre packs; small bags of commodities and ingredients such as rice, seeds, nuts, dried fruit and herbs.

Shortly after, Nova arrived. Situated on St Thomas Street in Bristol, Nova specialised in organic and bulk commodities and had a customer base including wholesalers and buying groups. Nova’s focus was good, unprocessed, additive free, organic and vegetarian food.

In 1991 these two co-operatives merged and became Essential Trading Co-operative Ltd. Harvest moved into the new Nova warehouse in Fishponds, Bristol. The members from each co-op and the product portfolios were retained. Essential still has the combined customer base of wholesale, retail and buying groups today.

Nova worker
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