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Group Purchasing Organization, Buying Group or Co-op: What’s the Difference?

When people buy groceries, they decide which stores will save them money and offer the products they need. Some stores require membership fees; some focus only on specialty groceries, while others provide the widest possible range of products. Group purchasing entities work in a similar way. Like the grocery store example, understanding the subtle differences is key to finding the right purchasing partner.

Group purchasing organizations (GPOs), buying groups, and cooperatives all refer to organizations leveraging collective buying power to negotiate lower prices. This strength in numbers enables members to also access solutions they could not achieve on their own. Member or participant benefits include:

  • Bypassing the lengthy and complicated RFP process
  • Access to analytics and reporting to improve spend management and forecasting
  • Responsive partnerships with suppliers

Group Purchasing Organization

The term GPO is commonly used to describe private sector group purchasing. The two main types of GPOs are:

Horizontal Market: GPO members exist across a broad range of different industries and an equally broad spectrum of goods and services from many different suppliers.

Vertical Market: GPO focused on one industry or vertical, such as health care or food services.


Buying groups or cooperatives are also entities banding together to aggregate the purchasing power of public agencies. Cooperative purchasing is the commonly used term amongst education, government and nonprofit institutions. All contracts are awarded by a government entity utilizing industry best practices, processes and procedures.

Selecting the right purchasing partner

  • Do the contracts and suppliers match your needs?
  • Is the group fully transparent about contract compliance, suppliers, and fees?
  • Will they be true partners who understand your business and what you buy?
  • Can they get you priority access to suppliers?
  • Can they assist you with spend analysis?
  • Does the group require minimum orders or members to be of a certain size or industry vertical?
  • Are members locked into contracts?

There are more than 600 group purchasing entities in the U.S., each unique in size and operation. Procurement professionals are adept at sourcing and comparing long-term value. If you’re evaluating a procurement partner, use those same skills to discover a partner who aligns with your needs and values.



OMNIA Partners serves participants within public sector, private sector, nonprofit, real estate and private equity. Offering the nation's most comprehensive portfolio of products and services from industry-leading suppliers with compliant contracts. There is never an obligation to buy, and best of all, membership is FREE! 

We are your ally throughout the purchasing process – committed to helping members achieve the greatest savings with less time spent on sourcing and procuring and strengthening supplier relationships through ongoing contract management.

Browse our contract portfolio.