The food buying power of the entire co-operative movement is set to be concentrated in a single buying group. United Co-op, the second largest co-operative society in the UK, has announced that it has applied to join CRTG, the £4.5bn food buying group that represents all the other co-op societies except a smaller one based in the south. Fast-growing United, which is the biggest c-store operator in the north-west of England, will add another £450m food turnover to CRTG. The Co-op Commission report, a fundamental review of the co-op movement published in January, recommended that all societies should join CRTG, but United resisted the call. However, at a special congress last weekend United chief executive Martin Beaumont said: "By joining forces with CRTG, I am confident that this will assist United and other societies to build an even stronger position in the key area of food convenience retailing." Beaumont revealed discussions had been going on for several months, and said changes made to CRTG had removed any "barriers". Paul Griffiths, general manager of United's food division, said United would benefit from the greater buying power, but he said he also hoped CRTG could learn from United's expertise in convenience retailing, which accounts for 70% of the food division's turnover. United will be seeking to find new jobs for its buying team in other areas of the business and within CRTG, but Griffiths admitted "there could be casualties". Malcolm Hepworth, ceo of CRTG and retail controller of the largest society, Co-operative Group, said: "This is great news. I'm genuinely excited. "We're within a whisker of consolidating buying within the movement into one group for the first time. United's application to join will be considered by CRTG's Strategy Group, and it could be a member by January. Southern Co-operatives, which operates in Hampshire, West Sussex and the Isle of Wight, is the only other society that is not a member of CRTG. A spokeswoman said it was considering whether it should join in light of announcements at the special congress. {{NEWS }}