Co-op Atlantic is considering selling its grocery and gas assets to Sobeys in order to keep the business afloat.

The grocery side of the business includes about 173 member-owned and franchised stores under supermarket banners such as Co-op, Valufoods and the convenience banner Rite Stop.

In an email to CBC News, Co-op Atlantic spokesperson Monique Bourque said the only stores that Sobeys would own would be the nine that are "corporate stores", stores that are under the Co-op Atlantic banner.

She also said member owned stores are independent. Under the proposed agreement, Sobeys would be their wholesaler.

"They would purchase their food from Sobeys," she wrote.

Members have until May 12 to vote.

The recommendation came after an operational and financial review that took months.

In a release, Co-op Atlantic board chair Adélard Cormier said:

"Co-op Atlantic and its member-co-operatives have worked hard to remain viable in the increasingly competitive world of retail food and gas. This decision has been a difficult one for management and the board but is, we believe, the best option for the continued viability of the member-owner stores and the co-operative movement in Atlantic Canada."

After the vote, Co-op Atlantic said it would be in a better position to assess the future of its remaining divisions including home energy and agriculture.