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A Week In My Life: Craig Noonan, Head of Retail PR for the Co-op


This week Craig Noonan, Head of Retail PR for the Co-op, runs us through a week in his working life. To suggest another senior media or creative figure for A Week In My Life, please email

Monday 20 February

The dulcet tones of John Humphrys and Justin Webb on the Today programme provide the entertainment on my drive into Manchester from leafy Lancashire.

On the business slot, the discussion focuses on the likelihood of more retail consolidation despite the Kraft / Unilever deal getting shelved.

Now, after a week off, my first job in the office is to try and remember my passwords to access my desk phone and computer. What is my pet’s name again? Oh, the joys of modern working life….

It’s a day of deleting unread emails and catching up on the latest developments at the Co-op. A lot happens here in a week. There are rumours about our namesake bank, and everyone is gearing up for the new CEO taking charge.

I should have attended a brewery tour to mark our new own-label craft beers launch, but skipped to catch up on work. Despite missing out on a free pint, judging by the fetching hi-vis wear a colleague had to don, I think I escaped a major fashion faux-pas – she looked like a cross between Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights character, Keith Lard, and a Minion.

Tuesday 21 February

The day starts with our regular paper review. The potential impact of a British exit from the European Union on British farming subsidies, plus rising fruit and veg costs and a rise in posh pizza sales are of note in the retail world, while the business pages are still focussing on the Unilever/ Kraft Heinz story.

We then finalise plans to unveil our latest Fairtrade commitment. The Co-op pioneered the first own-label Fairtrade chocolate bar 15 years ago and this year we’ll go even further by ensuring all the cocoa we use as an ingredient in all of our products will be Fairtrade.

A report will be launched which sets out our commitments. Surprisingly, less than three percent of the world’s cocoa is sourced under Fairtrade terms. Only a fraction of the estimated 5.5 million farmers who depend on cocoa for their livelihoods are experiencing the fairer deal Fairtrade can bring.

The Co-op is still the only retailer to offer 100% Fairtrade own brand chocolate bars and from May will be the UK’s first to source 100% of its own brand cocoa on Fairtrade terms and have an own brand Fairtrade chocolate confectionery range. Fairtrade confectionery still only represents 9.8% of the UK confectionery market and it’s not nearly enough. The opportunity to change lives is huge but the industry needs to do more.

The NFU conference is taking place and I’m keeping an ear over news and announcements – we had a nice tweet from them about our move to 100% fresh British meat from May.

Wednesday 22 February

It’s all about a cheeky bike ride before work. Yes I’m a fully-fledged MAMIL (middle aged man in Lycra). A quick two hour ride is part of my training plan as I prepare for a mini Tour de France this summer with a 1,000km ride across the Alps in aid of charity.

In other news, the BBC report on the issue of free range eggs and avian flu. We’ve been planning for this and have comms in stores and now the media are helping to spread the message. Shoppers have begun seeing stickers appearing on free range egg boxes, announcing that the hens who laid the eggs have actually been kept temporarily in barns for their welfare.

Free range hens have been housed in doors for several weeks to prevent the spread of bird flu. The order is to be lifted but not in all areas which means some free range eggs farmers will be restricted and effectively can’t provide free range eggs to retailers.

After the flocks were taken indoors, we and other retailers have started to put stickers onto their products or put up signs in shops to let people know animals were being “temporarily housed” during the outbreak.

It affects boxed eggs which have stickers on to tell consumers that our hens are temporarily being kept indoors. Also where free range eggs are listed as an ingredient, we are advising people that these will not currently be free range.

Thursday 23 February

After braving Storm Doris and driving into work, the focus  is on our move to extend our commitment to back UK farmers by switching all of our fresh bacon and lamb to 100% British. It kicks off in May and given Brexit and issues such as the recent ’courgette crisis’ it’s quite topical.

The new sourcing initiative will make the Co-op the only major UK food retailer to stock 100% own-brand fresh British beef, chicken, pork, lamb, bacon and turkey. We are already the only retailer to use British meat in all our chilled ready meals, pies and sandwiches.

Under our three-year plan, we’ve pledged to invest a minimum of £1.5bn sourcing UK meat and vegetables. We are kicking around ideas for the campaign in May and our partnership with Love British Food.

Friday 24 February

Dress down Fridays always ensure the last day of the working week is a more relaxed affair and that it’s a good day for some thinking time.

A planning session with our new food business chief executive is the key event of the day. Jo Whitfield has taken over the reins and it is an exciting opportunity to have a woman at the top of a major grocery business.

Half of our food executive are female, continuing the Co-op’s longstanding support for equality and diversity. In fact, the first woman member of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society was Eliza Brierley who joined in March 1846 at a time when women could not join trade unions and when very few received an education. Women members had an equal vote in their co-operative societies 80 years before they had an equal parliamentary vote.

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