The Cooperatives Association wants better support from the Government and recognition of its business model as confidence amongst investors dwindles from finance company failures.
Dozens of small and large New Zealand cooperatives, which are owned and operated locally, met at Parliament on Tuesday night as part of a United Nations global campaign.
Official figures show New Zealand's 200 cooperatives, from dairy giant Fonterra to Fruitpackers Hawke's Bay, make up about 3% of gross domestic product.
Research conducted by the New Zealand Cooperatives Association and Horizon shows 86% of New Zealanders have little knowledge about the structure.
The association's chairperson, Blue Read, says the business model usually flies under the radar and needs better support.
Half of those surveyed were uncomfortable with publicly listed firms, while about 70% were less trusting of companies as a result of the collapse of finance firms.
Mr Read says the cooperative structure provides security because those who run the company also have a vested interest.