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Sweden Culture Report

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Full name : Kingdom of Sweden (Sverige (SE), Ruotsi (FI) )

Capital :Stockholm ( 5 m inhabitants)

Major language :Swedish

Major religion : Christianity

Land Area 449,964 (173 732 sq miles)

Population: 9,3 m (=0,14 % of world´s population)

Foreign born inhabitants : 13,8 %

Population density: 20 sq. km

Life expectancy: Men 80 years , women 84 years

Adult literacy: 99%

Average per household 2.1

Divorces per1,000 : 2.1

Internet domain : .se

International dialing code :+46

Currency : Swedish Krona ( 9, 1310 Kr ~1 €)

Parliament: The Riksdag, with 349 members in a single chamber

National Day: June 6

Education: Nine years of compulsory schooling, but most pupils continue to the three-year upper secondary school. Around one third go on to higher education at universities and colleges throughout Sweden

Working hours: Standard work week is 40 hours, minimum paid vacation is 5 weeks

Labor force participation: Men: 74.0 %. Women: 68.3 %

Employment (% of total): Agriculture 2%, industry 23%,services 75%,unemployed 9 %

Longest north-south distance: 1,574 km

Longest east-west distance 499 km

Agricultural land: 8 %

Forests: 53 %

Marshland: 9 %

Grasslands: 7 %

Bare rocks and mountains: 12 %

Lakes and rivers: 9 %

Highest mountain: Kebnekaise (2,103 m)

Biggest lake: Vänern (5,650 sq km)

Natural resources: forest, ore, water power

(see even

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Capital of Sweden, Stockholm



Information about Swedish business culture can be found on several web sites (see the links at the end of the report), books, magazines (for example FinSve-magazine, FinTra´s magazine Move On ) etc). These sources give a wealth of information about the business cultures of Finland and Sweden, and elements of that information is included in this report. In addition, the information gathered from the business interviews in Finland and in Sweden is included in the report to help companies with their business activities in Sweden.

The first part of the report focuses on the general facts relating to the Swedish economy and business culture. The second part focuses on business between Finland and Sweden. It also gathers the information of the field interviews which highlighted Finnish companies´ experience and viewpoints. The people interviewed represented the tourism and catering sector, jewellery business, meat processing, agri- food/organic food and food service businesses. Also a couple of people from international /Scandinavian co operation and supporting institutions and chains were interviewed. All the interviewees have established contacts with Sweden.


Some key figures 2009 -2010:

* GNP: 800 227 mill Kr (2009) (Statistics Sweden, SCB)

* GNP /inhabitant: 327 300 Kr (2009) (SCB)

* GNP growth : -4,9 % (2009) (SCB)

* Inflation: 0,4 % (01/2010) ( National Bank of Sweden)

* Level of interest:* 0,25 % (02/2010) (Natioanal Bank of Sweden)

* Unemployment : 9,4 % (01/2010) (SCB)

* State debt: 1167,5 mrd Kr (01/2010) (National Debt Office)

Development of the Swedish economy:

The economy in Sweden became weaker during the international economic crisis. Swedish exports decreased by 16 % 2008-2009 and imports by 17 % ( BUT the food industry, agriculture and medicine were exceptions!) Sweden is managing the crisis better than forecast and much faster than many other countries. The surpluses from 2006-2008 have enabled an expansive financial policy without any major permanent deficits. The public economy is expected to be balanced and turn to surplus during 2012-2014 without any budget tightenings.

2009 GNP decreased by 4,9 %. According to the Government GNP will increase by 4,8 % during 2010 and by 3,7 % during 2011.

Unemploymet is at its peak 2010 (9,8 %), it is forecast to be 8 % in 2011 and about 6 % in 2014 i.e. the same level as before the economic crisis. In autumn 2009 it was estimated that the peak of unemployment (11%) would be reached first in 2011.

Sweden overtakes the US and Singapore this year to be placed 2nd overall in the overall ranking in The Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011 released by the World Economic Forum. Switzerland tops the ranking, while the United States falls two places to fourth position. Singapore comes 3rd.
The other Nordic countries continue to be well positioned in the ranking, with Finland (7th) and Denmark (9th) among the top 10, and with Norway at 14th. The United Kingdom, after falling in the rankings over recent years, moves back up by one place for 12th position.

Business life:

Sweden is a very industrialized country. Agriculture and forestry account for 2 % of the GNP, industry and construction about 30 % and the service sector about 60 %. The majority of Swedish companies are SMEs (small or medium-sized enterprises).

It is worth mentioning that Sweden is one of the most attractive locations for inward investment in the world. One in four international business chains choose Sweden as their business partner in the future (100 businesses responded). Their choice is motivated by promoting the message that the Swedish market is transparent and the relevant statistics easy to find. Expensive labour costs in Sweden were the only negative issue mentioned.

Largest Swedish companies (by turnover):

-Volvo, L.M. Ericsson, Vattenfall, Nordea, Skanska, Electrolux

Largest Swedish exporting companies 2009:

-Ericsson, Volvo cars, Astra Zeneca, Sandvik, SSAB, Tetrapak, LKAB,SAAB, IKEA


* Swedish Statistics Centre(

* National Bank of Sweden (

* National Bureau (

* Institute for Economic Research (


Foreign Trade of Sweden :

Export of goods 2009 Import of goods 2009 Surplus 2009

998 Mrd SEK 911 Mrd SEK 87 Mrd SEK

(-16 % from 2008) (-17 % from 2008) (-10 % from 2008)

Trade partners of Sweden 2009, % :

Main export partners 2009, % Main import partners 2009, %

Norway 10,6% Germany 17,9%

Germany 10,2% Norway 9,0%

UK 7,4% Denmark 9,0%

Denmark 7,3% Netherlands 6,5%

Finland 6,4% UK 5,7%

USA 6,4% Finland 5,2%

Main exports and imports /type, %:

|Main export products 2009, % (SCB) |Main import products 2009% (SCB) |
|1. Machinery and transport equipment 44,3 |1. Machinery and equipment 41,3 |
|2. Chemicals 14,1 |2. Miscellaneous manufactures * 22,2 |
|3. Miscellaneous manufactures * 13,5 |3. Chemicals 13,8 |
|4. Wood and paper 12,4 |4. Energy products 11,6 |
|5. Minerals 9,1 |5. Minerals 8,0 |
|6. Energy producst 6,6 |6. Wood and paper 3,1 |

*food stuff, furniture, textiles

Development of Swedish trade 2010 :
The most important import sector- machinery, appliances and transport equipment- increased its volume by 29 %. Electronics and IT grew the most (35%) , machinery by 18 %. The import of vehicles increased by 44 % ( passenger cars 50 %).
Machinery, appliances and transport equipment are also the largest export group in Sweden, with a share of about 50 % of the total export and its volume increased by 19 % (electronics and IT 23 %, vehicles 36 % including parts and equipment).
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Swedish money SEK and EUR


( Main source:

A belief in the genuine equality of individuals and the resultant desire for consensus are at the heart of Swedish business life.

Sweden presents a fascinating business model. It has proved to be a remarkably successful post-war economy, which has managed to combine both pro-business policies with the provision of an all-embracing welfare state.

In Sweden there is a very large number of truly international companies emanating from a country with a population of about nine million - Ericsson, Electrolux, Atlas Copco, ABB, Tetrapak; the list is almost endless. It is a truism that countries with small domestic markets need to internationalise to survive and prosper but few countries have been as successful as Sweden on the world stage.

One important fact about Sweden is also the enormous breadth of its industries. Sweden has significant companies in market sectors varying from electrical goods to vehicle manufacture, from telecommunications to pharmaceuticals and from mechanical engineering to chemicals. In addition, of course, it has companies with a global presence in all these industrial areas.

Swedish business structures and management:

Swedish organisations are often not as layered as in other European countries. The flatness of Swedish management structures is also mirrored at the levels of remuneration offered to different stratas within a company. A combination of tax regime and centrally agreed salary agreements have produced a country in which pay differentials are almost unbelievably low (although this is starting change).

Structures are designed to be pragmatic and systematic and to allow people to perform their tasks effectively and with as little disruption as possible. This does not, however, mean that structures are extremely inflexible. Indeed matrix management, which works better in Sweden than almost anywhere else, leads to openness of communication and freedom of information which many more hierarchical societies would find almost anarchic.

One key organisational necessity is the absolute need for punctuality. Don't be late in Sweden if you want to maintain a professional image.

Swedish managers are seen more as facilitators or coaches who offer advice and suggestions. Bosses are not necessarily expected to know all the answers, and it is assumed that the person performing a particular task is the best expert in that particular task.

One result of this approach is that decisions can be hard to reach and the process tends to be drawn out. It is important that the manager includes everybody in the process and that everybody's point of view is listened to and valued. So those from countries where quick decision making is highly valued can find this process frustrating.

As managers tend to adopt a consensual approach and openness of discussion, information tends to flow well between departments and functions. There also tends to be less social distance between managers and subordinates. Management denotes a level of work-related responsibility rather than a hierarchical status.

Swedes are good team players, and every team member is expected to perform his own tasks without any strong supervision.


Meetings tend to be long with a great deal of open debate (“diskuterande folk” = discussing people). The participants speak one at time. Opinions are expected to be backed up by empirical evidence, which means that a great deal of pre-planning and preparation are expected. Meetings can have a cold feeling for those who are used to emotional discussions.

Punctuality is of central importance in Sweden. Lateness implies a lack of courtesy and respect for the other members present. In discussions about approach to business, Swedes raise the importance of punctuality more often and more strongly than almost any other nationality.

Agendas are usually produced. Without an agenda, the meeting would run the risk of disintegrating into an aimless discussion.

Business communication styles:

Swedes communicate well in international business situations. They speak fluent English. The international nature of many Swedish businesses makes it essential for any ambitious Swede to have a good knowledge of this world business language.

As with many northern European countries, directness in communication comes often before diplomacy. The search for consensus and agreement makes directness absolutely necessary. The result of this respect for plain speaking is that Swedes can be seen as rude by those cultures which place diplomacy before direct speaking (for example Japan).

Silence is golden in Sweden. In many other cultures people find any level of silence intolerable and will rush to fill it. Swedes are comfortable with silence. If you don't have anything to say why speak?

Although Swedes have a good sense of humor, it is not necessarily appropriate in all business situations. Serious business should be treated seriously.

Dress code:

Dress tends towards smart-casual in Swedish business life. Swedes usually wear jackets and trousers - often with a fairly distinctive tie to set them apart. Pastel shades are very often in evidence.

If travelling in winter, be sure to be appropriately and warmly dressed. It is best to sport a number of layers as, whilst cold outside, offices can be very warm indeed.


Sergel´s Square in the City of Stockholm


Tip 1

Egalitarianism is one of the driving characteristics of Swedes. This leads Swedes to be consensus-oriented in many situations.

Tip 2

Swedes expect to be allowed to perform their tasks independently, free from interference from others.

Tip 3

Business structures tend to be flat with good, open communication across the functions.

Tip 4

Managers are expected to include subordinates in the democratic decision-making process.

Tip 5

Swedes tend to make good team players, realising the importance of open communication.

Tip 6

Business meetings can be long with serious discussions.

Tip 7

Delegates are expected to arrive well-prepared for meetings. Agendas are often used and usually adhered to.

Tip 8

Decision taking can also be a long process as the necessary debate and consensus process is gone through.

Tip 9

Punctuality is essential in Sweden. Lack of punctuality can undermine professional credibility.

Tip 10

Swedes put business before relationships first, and business relationships are based on respect for competence and diligence.

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King Carl Gustaf XVI of Sweden and President of Finland, Tarja Halonen Prime Ministers of Sweden and Finland 2010


(Sources: and field interviews)

The relationship between Finland and Sweden has its roots deep in history. Finland was for a long time a part of Sweden, and this can be clearly seen in similar sense of humour and culture. The Swedish and Finnish culture type is the so-called ‘linear active type’ (meaning that both are cool, factual and decisive planners).

The Swedish language is the second official language of Finland (about 5 % of Finns are Swedish speaking). Finnish business culture can be said to be “created” by Swedish speaking Finns and influenced by them even today. The Finnish language has also got official minority status in Sweden today (there live about 450 000 Finnish speaking people in Sweden).

The EU-membership of the countries has brought them closer to each other in many political matters. The relationships are maintained regularly and the communication of the officials and civic society is lively.

Doing business with Sweden is often a good channel to wider co operation and to international markets. Integration of business life through, for example, company fusions and acquisitions is typical between Finland and Sweden (for example Atria meat processing company, Pintos nails etc).

Similarity is often a big plus (punctuality, silence, humour, language skills, time, climate….), the preparations and negotiations are not so time demanding. The markets are large enough, people have the same kind of values etc = there are no big risks. According to the The Ease of Doing Business Index (World Bank), Sweden and Finland had very similar ranking in 2010 (Se 18, Fi 16). Yet there are also differences and many cultural factors that have to be studied carefully before you try to approach Swedish markets. The similarity can also become a minus, as the markets are very similar as are the products. Swedes tend to test and challenge Finnish companies a lot!

Swedes can be said to be” the Americans of Europe”. They are brand makers and very good at marketing (Swedish music for example). They are very proud of their culture and their products. Finland has much to learn from them because we quite often find ourselves following in their footsteps.

The differences between Swedish and Finnish business culture can most often be seen in their concepts of time, management, duties /responsibilities, project work and changes:

Cultural differences Sweden /Finland:

Management Trait Sweden Finland

Time Long, quality ,”let´s see…” Short, effective, “here and now”

Responsibility Group Individual

Planning Avoid risks Handling

Communication Describing, involving Clear, give directions

Manager Co-operating Authoritative

Incentive Safety Duty

Delegation Performance Decision and performance

Change Slow, weak Quick,strong

Structure Planning Ad hoc

Chaos Unwanted Handled

Concensus Wanted Not necessary

Participating Planning,doing together Individually (directions-results)


Gamla Stan – The Old town in Stockholm


The business relations between Finland and Sweden have a long history. However Finnish exports to Sweden were quite low until 1968, when the business was promoted by FinnFinland-marketing campaign. Before that there were not many Finnish products on the Swedish market. Today Finland and Sweden are very close business partners and the structure of their industry is very similar. Their international economic interests are more and more often congruent. Both countries have managed the economic crisis well. The economic atmosphere is very positive and at present the economy is more buoyant. Competition is strong, and the Swedes find the Finnish products often too expensive.

The main characteristic for the last few years has been the merger of the Finnish and Swedish company fields (even the whole Scandinavia). Companies within the same special fields are searching for competitive strength in Scandinavian, European and global markets. For example Stora-Enso, Nordea, TietoEnator, CloettaFazer, Telia-Sonera and OMX. Every year several company acquisitions are made mutually.

Swedes are said to be the most interested in Finnish machinery and appliances, subcontracting, vehicles, information technology, semi manufactured goods and consumer goods. They trust in the quality of Finnish products and services.

Finnish companies in Sweden:

The company mergers and acquisitions continue. There are several Finnish companies and investments in Sweden. Finnish companies bought 23 companies from Sweden during 2009. Respectively, Swedish companies bought 21 companies from Finland during the same year. In Sweden there are in total 700 companies which are partly owned by Finns. These companies provide work for more than 60 000 people.

The Finnish-Swedish Chamber of Commerce ( in Stockholm is the Finnish commercial agency in Sweden. The Swedish commercial agency in Finland is Exportrådet (

Structure of trade:

Both exports to Sweden and imports from Sweden have been about 1/3 lower in 2009 than the year before. Sweden was Finland´s second biggest export partner (9.8 %). As import partner Sweden was remarkably smaller than German and Russia (10%).

Finland was Sweden´s fifth biggest export country in 2009 (6.4% of the total export) and the sixth biggest import country ( 5.2 % of the total import). (Source:Finnish Customs)

Finnish export to Sweden in 2009 was 4.4 Mrd EUR and import from Sweden 4.3 Mrd EUR. The Swedish trade was thus showing 99 Mill EUR surplus (Finnish Customs). Swedish export to Finland 2009 was 6.4 Mrd EUR and import from Finland 4.7 Mrd EUR (SCB).


Imports from Sweden to Finland grew by 20 % during January – September 2010 compared with the same period one year before. The export of goods from Finland to Sweden during the same period grew by 33 % which is much above the average. In total, Finland´s import of goods increased by 15 % and export of goods by 14 %. The corresponding percentages of Swedish trade were 18 % (import) and 13 % (export).


Öresundbridge connects Sweden and Denmark (Malmö-Copenhagen)


The field interviews focused on 9 questions based on the general information given about Swedish business culture

The interviewees represent the following fields: food industry ( meat processing, potato, organic food, local food companies /chains, tourism and catering (marketing), jewellery business. Also the interview with the representative from FinSve (Chamber of Commerce) is included in the summary.

1. Are there any major regional differences in Sweden you have to be aware of when doing business with Sweden?

The biggest and most important (and also the most challenging) business areas and most of the markets and wholesalers are located in Stockholm, Malmö and Göteborg regions. You have to have a very special and attractive product to approach those markets. It is easier to reach the markets in Middle and Northern Sweden, one reason is that as not so many companies try to approach the markets there, the competition is not so severe.

Sweden as whole is very international to be a small Scandinavian country. 13 % of the inhabitants have a foreign background. The Stocholm area is the most multicultural area. All business branches have immigrant managers and employees (for example restaurant businesses) so you have to know about many different cultures, and a knowledge only of the Swedish culture is not enough today.

Smaller (rural) places can sometimes be good test market targets because of cheaper transport and communications (fairs, exhibitions etc).

It is always and everywhere important to have the right contacts and to know the right people, but especially within the Stockholm area. The decisions are usually in the hands of very few people (the middle management).

Language problems may also be dependent on which part of the country you do business. The areas near Denmark, for example, can cause difficulty. There are many dialects in Sweden and some rural dialects, such as that of Orsa in Dalarna, which is almost incomprehensible to other Swedish speakers. Most of their speakers are also fluent in standard Swedish, so no real problems of understanding usually arise. English is very commonly understood and spoken in Sweden. In many organisations there is someone who can also speak German, French, Spanish or Finnish.

2. What about the Swedish communication and negotiation styles:

The Swedish way of communication is very structured and correct. Their communications style is very similar to ours. Both Swedes and Finns are quite open, straight and honest. For Swedes it seems to be somewhat difficult to say “no” and they might be more careful when choosing their words. Swedes are very polite, discussing and thinking people, and the best way to do business with them is to do it “step by step” and give them time to consider things (“let´s get back to this”). Finnish people tend to make quicker decisions (yes or no).

You have to be very patient and calm when negotiating with Swedes, you have to reserve time to make contacts, give enough pre-information for them to base their decisions on.

The processes can be quite slow (can be quick, too if they really want some products). The Swedish people are very punctual and you can trust them.

It is good if you can “read” their sense of humor and if you can “flirt” a bit. But it is really important to know the culture, taboos, language etc of trying to do that.

Family and free time are very precious to Swedish people so they are not willing to have business meetings late in the evenings or at weekends. Otherwise they are flexible with appointments. After 5 pm, most Swedish employees go back to their home in order to take care of their family. Working overtime is not valued as necessary. It can be seen as an indication of poor planning and time management.

The workdays are usually from 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. There is one hour for lunch and many people go to lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

When small talking with Swedes, talk about the weather conditions and climate, the actual business news (read Swedish newspapers, watch TV to know about them!), future prospects, trends. Don´t talk about religion or politics or sexual matters.

Both Swedes and Finns are more hand shaking than hugging and backslapping people.

Both Swedes and Finns tend to stay farther apart when conversing than many other countries.

E mail and phone call cultures are similar in Sweden and Finland. It´s always better to meet face-to-face or call, but Ee-mails are read and answered regularly, too.

3. What kind of management style do the Swedes have?

Sweden is more democratic than Finland and many other countries. Finnish managers are said to be more “masculine” than the Swedish ones. There are flat hierarchies in the organisations in Sweden. Autocratic governance is rarely encountered. The managers see themselves more as coaches who are trying to encourage their subordinates to do their best for the whole team. Men and women are equal as well.

Even if the management style in Sweden is very democratic, the decisions are usually made by a limited number of people (middle management).

4. What would be the best ways of marketing/establishing your products to Sweden?

Before trying to approach the Swedish market you have to get acquainted with the economic situation of Sweden. You have to undertake market research, get to know the potential customer registers, chains and networks etc. A wide bank of potential customers is necessary at the beginning, and direct premarketing or contacting the wholesale stores (other channels) is essential. Much travelling is needed to be able to see and hear all the details.

Face-to-face marketing is always the best option, but you have to make your business and products familiar beforehand by sending brochures,using digital marketing, going to fairs, advertising in magazines and newspapers etc. Your brand has to be ready and excellent and the test marketing must be done properly.

It is important to find the target companies. Good contacts are the most important thing to reach the right people who can make decisions. There are several supporting organizations which can help entrepreneurs to find the contacts and research the markets. You have to know where your products are needed.

5. Financial matters ? Does SEK (Swedish Krona) cause any trouble at the market?

The fact that Sweden uses its own currency SEK, Swedish Krona, can cause some trouble, such as when the rates of courses change, but normally there are no problems. The invoicing systems are similar and the prices are given in euro. Most often Krona and euro are used flexibly side by side. According to forecasts SEK will set at the same level with EUR by 2012.

There are some differences between the margin calculations and debt collection etc, so money issues are always worth studying before doing businesses.

The credit ratings of companies should be checked carefully, contacts and experience help to do that.

6. Language policy in the business between Finland and Sweden?

Swedish business people speak fluent English and so do Finnish ones, but it is always a big plus to be able to use their own language when doing business with them.

About 5 % of Finnish inhabitants have Swedish as their mother tongue so this can be of clear benefit. They can get closer to their Swedish partners than those who do business in English. Even weaker Swedish skills are appreciated and respected. Every company doing business with Sweden should have Swedish speaking contact people. About 450 000 Swedish-Finns live in Sweden, so the cooperation language can sometimes be Finnish as well. In many companies there are Finnish speaking people engaged in businesses between the countries.

Those businessmen and –women who use Swedish in their contact with Swedes experience it essential when creating contacts and taking care of businesses (even Swedish address ~ at least a virtual office in Sweden, a Swedish phone number make things more fluent). There are also people who have experienced it better to use English instead of not so fluent Swedish.

In all, language doesn´t usually cause any trouble between Swedes and Finns in business life supposing that all the Finns manage either Swedish or English well.

7. What Finnish products is Sweden interested in?

The Finnish and Swedish markets are very similar and the product supply does not differ a lot. Coarsely it could be said that Swedes don´t get many new products from Finland, especially considering they are usually a couple of steps ahead.

One possibility to approach the Swedish markets is to provide cheaper quality products/services than they can offer themselves. Some special /design products with high demand sell well, too (for example Valio´s lactose free products)

Swedish people appreciate handicraft products (both handmade food products and other handicraft products).

Local products are favoured, too. In broad terms the whole Scandinavia is one large local market, so Finland has possibilities to compete with the Swedish local products. Finland has some special products (for example Yosa organic and plant based food products) which have their “home market” both in Finland and Sweden, as Sweden has no equivalent products.

8. What about social life, entertaining, business gifts …?

Because Swedish companies have many business partners all over the world, they get plenty of special business gifts as well. It is better not to try to compete with them but trust on beautiful, simple, unique Finnish design ( local food products, Marimekko, Iittala, Finnish chocolate) is always a good choice. “Small is beautiful”. Alcohol is not the best possible business gift. Alcohol and business don´t belong together in Sweden.

The same simplicity can be followed when it comes to entertaining, business dining etc.

As mentioned above, free time and family are precious to Swedes, so for example business dinners, sauna evenings etc are not as typical as among Finns. Finns find it easier to small talk at informal occasions whereas Swedes discuss and small talk more during their normal meetings.

9. Biggest strengths/ threats ?


-big markets which are quite easy to reach (mutual history, location, language, similar culture, climate etc)

-trustworthy and punctual business partner

-democratic, the same amount of bureaucracy

-the same business style , communication style etc.

-co operation together to international markets ( fairs together, for example Organic North), (Sweden has very advanced international contacts)

-Swedish business life helps Finland on its own market (we have to react on the new ways of doing things and on new products), Sweden is a brand maker.

Threats :

-slow decision process so you have to be really in time with your business efforts

-it is quite expensive to approach Swedish markets

-very strict quality control in Sweden (not everywhere)

-poor communication

-companies don´t study cultural backgrounds carefully enough, easy to think that our countries are 100 % similar which is

- Swedish should be studied more eagerly in Finland

-the markets are too similar, we have to have something special to provide, undue pressure to be an interesting trade partner for Sweden

- Finland is somewhat behind Sweden with regard to innovative products (for example food industry)

Some practical hints (picked from the interviews):

- be present …local presence is important, get at least a virtual office , get registered in some supporting organization. marketing chain etc -networks!! right circles, contacts (even civilian life contacts -⋄foot ball teams etc.…), find the right customers and representatives -analyzing and planning lead to success -the brand has to be excellent before trying to approach the market, you have to test it well on own markets first (slow entering, converting to match the Swedish markets) -courage is needed -recruiting good and committed people is necessary -it is important to listen to and “read” other cultures, think and interpret right, Finns often ignore details and tones--> in this way you learn to know what people want to buy from you -social skills must be trained -very big plus to be able to use Swedish (on the other hand Swedes can very fluent English so it depends on business and region etc) -be polite ---Swedes are very polite, they have good behavior -learn to talk, Swedes discuss a lot - a good presentation of the product is essential (broscures, samples, recipes…) -documentation very important


(Sources : MD Marja Kahra and field interviews)

The population ratio between Sweden and Finland is ca 1,75. That means that the Swedish market is about double as big as the Finnish market. In 2008, the turnover of Swedish daily consumer goods sales was ca 182 Mrd SEK ( 17,5 Mrd €) and the Finnish food stuffs sales turnover was 10 Mrd €. Sales per inhabitant were about 1900 € in both countries. Approximately 12 % of the Swedish households´ expenses is spent on food. The volume of the markets and the sales per inhabitant are nearly identical in Finland and Sweden, but there are some major differences, too. . The Swedish grocery business consists of three big chains from three different price segments and a couple of small-scale stores. The biggest chain is ICA (today a part of European Ahold- group). The second biggest chain is co operative Coop and private Axfood (the main holder Axel Johnson owns 46% of Axfood) The most important challengers are Bergendahls AB with its headquarters in Skåne and the discount store chains Lidl ( German) and Netto ( Danish).
Market share 2009:
|ICA |50,3 % |
|Coop |20,6 % |
|Axfood |15,7 % |
|Bergendahls |5,7 % |
|Lidl |3,0 % |
| | |
|Netto |2,1 % |
| | |

The sales of daily consumer goods increased about 5 % in 2009. Lidl and Netto increased their share whereas the others lost theirs. ICA stores are the most important sales outlets. The sale value of all the ICA grocery stores increased about 3-4 % while the sale of all the other chain stores decreased. Most of Swedish people buy their food from ICA Supermarkets..
Stockholm is the biggest market area followed by Göteborg, Malmö and Helsingborg. The largest stores are not situated in Stockholm area but in Haninge and Strömstad. Strömstad is located near the Norwegian border and the Swedish food stores attract Norwegians because of their cheaper prices. [pic] ICA local store in Norrköping

Sales per area 2008, mrd. SEK:
|Stockholm area |35,9 |
|Western Götaland |35,2 |
|Southern Götaland |24,4 |
|Eastern Götaland |23,2 |
|Mälardalen |21,0 |
|Southern Norrland |14,0 |
|Eastern Svealand |13,3 |
|Norhern Norrland |10,5 |

Source: DLL, Delphi ja Fri Köpenskap
There are great regional differences on the Swedish food stuff markets for example in the consumption of coffee, bread, meat and milk products. In bigger cities and suburbs there are big ethnic target groups for example Finns, people from Middle-East, South-Americans and Africans.
Products with good market prospects in long run are for example pastas, poultry, packed drinks and vegetables. Sale of cheeses increased remarkably during 2009. especially lactose free and other special cheeses were popular. Also the sale of oriental food products, bread, chocolate, soups and sauces increased. The sale of potatoes, whole milk. fresh packed cakes, sweet buns and butter decreased.
Sweden is quite independent when it comes to grain and milk products. Fish, vegetables and fruit are important import products. Norway, Denmark, Germany and Netherlands and Finland are the biggest importers . Amount of imported products from Eastern Europe is still small, but the price factor refers to increase, particularly when many Swedish brands are more and more often manufactured abroad.
A very strong trend in Sweden just now is focusing on organic and local products. The Swedish market share of organic food was ca 5 % in 2007 and is increasing all the time. Sweden is one of the strongest organic countries of Europe. Swedish consumers tend to think that Finland produces clean and safe food which gives a positive value to Finnish products. What they mainly want to source from Finland are different kind of supplementary local foods. For Sweden, Finland is a local market and vice versa, the short distance between Sweden and Finland is a big plus. Short sea transport is quite ecological. After all it is worth remembering that about 50 % of Swedish markets lies closer to Denmark, Poland and Germany than Finland. It affects the consumption chart, cause the regions south of Karlstad and Västervik don´t know Finland well enough.

Differences between the Finnish and Swedish food stuff markets:
There are several differences between the Finnish and Swedish food stuff markets regarding consumption, logistics/deliveries and marketing:
Convenience foods: Finland: fresh,chilled food - Sweden: frozen food.
Trend : Share of chilled convenience food will increase in Sweden, for example salads and other vegetarian convenience food sell well. Swedish use hotter spices. Asian food is common (Thai food especially ). Sales of ready –to-eat food is forecasted to grow much by 2012 (lack of time, one person households etc ).
Organic food: Supply of organic food is wide in Sweden and prices are moderate,. The biggest supply of organic products covers dairy and grain products, eggs, fruit and vegetables, and the supply of eco meat and cold cuts is still limited. Organic food markets have grown more than any other segment of the food market during the last few years. HoReCa –field´s aim by 2010 was to cover 25 % of their supply with organic products. Coop grocery store chain in Sweden is marketing very strongly for soft values and wants to be a market leader of organic products.

Functional and health food: The development of lactose free and gluten free products is much more advanced in Finland. Finland is known as the ”Silicon Valley” of the functional food industry for Europe. The segment is growing rapidly in Sweden, too.

Meat and Poultry: [pic]
The choice of marinated and prepared meat products (pork, beef etc) and poultry is much wider in Finland than in Sweden. Swedes tend to prefer local meat products from small –scale companies. Salami sausage from Norway, Denmark and Italy equals to the Finnish medwurst sausage.

Finnish bread culture = rye bread culture. The same kind of bread culture can be found in Sweden , too, reaching through the Middle Sweden. In other parts of Sweden loaves and white breads are favoured. Sour bread culture will become more common especially in bigger cities.[pic] Markets and demand for fresh glutenfree bread exist but much concept planning, testing and developing is still needed.

Fish: Sweden borders in North Sea and thus the choice of fish and crayfish is larger than in Finland. Freshwater fish like vendace has very limited markets, except vendace roe.
Milk products:
Milk product selection in Finland is much more many sided than in Sweden. Especially the assortment of yoghurts and other sour milk products is wide. In Sweden the selection of ecological milk products is good. The demand for lactose free products such as cheese is increasing all the time. Sweden is world´s biggest consumer of hard cheeses. The supply of dessert cheeses is much bigger in Sweden than in Finland. According to a new research, over 14 % of Swedish people have lactose intolerance today. This high percentage is probably a consequence of immigration from countries where lactose intolerance is more common than in Scandinavia. [pic]
Logistics /Deliveries
Distances in Sweden are long – it´s as long from Malmö to Luleå as from Malmö to Milan in Italy.. In Finland there are three big logistics companies who take care of the deliveries. The delivery system in Sweden is more complicated, because it is managed by the chains´ own delivery channels or by independent suppliers. It is also worth remembering that the package sizes vary a lot ( frozen product packages).
Stores´ own brands are more typical than in Finland. Their share is over 15 % and the product assortment is huge. The agreement with the supplier is usually made for one or two years, Regional TV – ads are not as common as in Finland. Advertising publications are still the most important marketing channel. Swedes have a tendency to choose cheap before quality , that´s why they quite often think that Finnish products are too expensive for their markets.



About 450 000 people of Finnish origin live in Sweden. Most of them moved to Sweden at the beginning of 1970 . Most of them live in the Stockholm area but proportionally the biggest part of them live in Haparanda, Över Torneå,Syrahammar and Skinnskatteberg. From the ethnic point of view nearly 5 % of Swedish market is Finnish.

Finnish food categories in Sweden: 1. Products for Swedish-Finns originating from the traditional food culture. 2. Products which are generally accepted by the big market groups in Sweden.
The first great conquest of Swedish markets happened at the end of 1960 (beer, cheese, sausage, bread and sweets) he second wave was at the beginning of 1990 when Finland and Sweden joined the EU ( yoghurt, meat products, convenience food and special products like lactose free and gluten free food stuff).
Import from Finland 2008 ,MEUR
|Dairy products |53,1 |
|Grain products |26,1 |
|Coffee, tea, cacao |24,5 |
|Meat products |24,3 |
|Sugar and sweets |15,2 |
|Total: |183,2 |

Source: Finnish Customs

Export /import statistics between Finland and Sweden 2007-2010:

Swedish export to Finland ( SEK 1000):

2007 2008 2009 Jan-June 2009 Jan-June 2010 Change 2010/2009 %
Swedish Export 68 514 240 72 758 949 61 251 089 30 741 744 32 215 197 5
Share of total Exp.6,1 % 6,17% 6,24% 6,2% 6%
FOOD 4 046 286 4 691 286 5 317 307 2 612 632 2 504 809 -4

Import from Finland (SEK 1000):

Swedish Import 61 766 384 60 776 274 44 345 815 21 517 483 25 967 261 21
Share of total Imp. 6,14% 5,71% 5,07% 5% 5,2%
FOOD 1 949 935 2 065 662 2 170 527 1 054 031 1 029 850 -2

(Source :Exportrådet)

Finnish food stuff export to Sweden 2009 (products / 1000 €):

Milk products 46 877
Chocolate and sweets 28 545
Meat and meat products 22 557
Agricultural products 17 678
Grain products 16 568
Alcohol 10 411
Animal and vegetarian fats 7 710
Fish products 6 854
Beer 3 593
Frozen berries and vegetables 3 528
Margarine 2 721
Juices 2 717
Starch products 2 650
Animal feed 2 150
Sugar 1 640
Baby food 1 176
Malt 1 139
Other 10 430

Total 188 944

Swedish export to Finland has increased most regarding food products (ca 5% 2009) .Finland is the second biggest food export country for Sweden. The most important export products are fish, milk products, beverages, grain products and sugar (Jordbruksverket).
Finnish food stuff export to Sweden was 17,4 % of the total food export in 2009. Sweden was thus our second biggest food export partner after Russia (24,7%).
The import of agricultural and food industry products in Sweden grew more than their export in 2009 ( 92 Mrd SEK ^50 Mrd SEK). More than 50 % of Swedish import comes from from Norway, Denmark, Germany and Netherlands.

Category 1 – Traditional products
Category 1 covers for example cold cuts, sausages, ham, mustard,hard rye bread, crisp bread,Easter pudding, rusks, bagels, pickle, pickled mushrooms, fish conserves, homemade beer, licuorice, oat flakes,biscuits,Karelian pastries, bread cheese, soft cheeses, Finnish coffee and tar pastils..
Category 2- Products which have established their position on the Swedish markets
Category 2 : Products with well established marketing positions in Swedish food stuff business are for example:yoghurt, hard cheese (esp lactose free), other lactose free milk products, thin crisps, small pancakes (crepes), chilled convenience food, chocolate and sweets.,spices,eggs,seasonal vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, soft rye bread , potato crisps and strong beer.
Establishing your product
The products´ road to the shelves of the stores is often very long and competition is strong. The exporting companies have to participate in internationalizing programs, change their strategies, get familiar with different prizing, product registering systems, convert their products for new markets, compile brochures and samples etc etc. Great capacity and competence are needed. The concept which has proved to be successful in Finland does not guarantee the same success in Sweden. Quite often companies can see after 3-6 months whether their product sells or not.
The following food products have difficulties in establishing on the Swedish market are for example: Juices, bottled water, light beer, cider, ice cream, butter, fats, coffee bread, conserves, jams and pickled products.
Geographically, the easiest markets for Finnish products lie on the coast of Norrland, in Stockholm, Västerås with its surroundings, Eskilstuna and Göteborg. In these areas nearly every chain store sells Finnish products, usually on special shelves or labelled by the Finnish flag.
Only a few Finnish products are volume sellers in Sweden. The only market leader is the thin rye crisp. Under the last 20 years only yoghurt lactose free milk products, chilled convenience food and shiitake mushroom have succeeded in capturing the Swedish market. Now that lactose intolerance is strongly increasing in Sweden, cooperation between Finnish and Swedish food industries could rapidly supply the demand for lactose free products on the Swedish markets.
Yet the Finnish food products are profit-making as special products. They are mainly bought because of their high quality and special features and not because of their cheap prices. This opens doors for Finnish small –scale food producers who can offer good and exciting products for a narrow marketing segment.
In Sweden, local SME-food companies have great difficulty in finding suitable machinery and appliances to support their small scale production. This fact could offer possibilities to the Finnish manufacturers of agricultural machines and appliances.
Use of social media in business and internet retail food sales is growing all the time and opening new doors even for the business between Finland and Sweden. ICA, for instance, sell food via internet


Delivery channels and retail dealers
The Swedish delivery system is much like the Finnish one. There are three big concentrations who are responsible for 87 % of the whole grocery markets..
In addition to the large chains, other possible customers are smaller, local storekeepers, cheap chain-and grocery stores, wholesale businesses, institutional kitchen wholesalers, catering firms, restaurants, course centres and the Swedish Systembolaget (liquer store). These markets make up about 25 % of the total food stuff sales.
How to enter the Swedish market : 1. Selling directly to the chains. All the chains follow the EU Competition Law and the purchases are open for all the suppliers. New products can be offered during the so called selection periods, 3-4 times /year. Suppliers with right capacity, prices and quality are linked to the chains´ database and the products are dealt mainly in their own logistic systems. The products can be ordered by all the stores belonging to the chains. ICA and Hemköp-chains have great requirements on certification and traceability. Coop –chain has its own purchasing department for ethnic food for example Finnish products. To make an appointment with a buyer can take a very long time, for 3-6 months. Companies have a possibility to make an agreement about manufacturing chains´ own brand products. There are many Finnish companies who have managed to do that well. Margins are small and requirements big but because of big volumes, profit-making can be good, too.

2. Selling via an independent wholesale store specializing in Finnish foodstuff. In Sweden there are about six wholesalers importing Finnish groceries, either directly from the manufacturer or via the wholesale stores, mainly from Turku and Helsinki regions. It is important to find a whole sale store with its own logistic functions, storages and deliveries, especially if the products are fresh products like cheeses and meat. These wholesalers seldom work nationally and their customers are usually private traders who belong to some chain, not for example cooperative Coop.

3. Selling through a Swedish wholesaler or importer. This is the most functioning way when importing fruit, vegetables, products for institutional kitchens and other sensitive products when it is not possible to deliver them directly to the chains. The most whole sale stores are located in Stockholm, Malmö and Göteborg and they deliver goods for customers of all kind.
4. Selling via a private agent. This business manner is not common in Sweden and suites only for very strong brands and special products without their own sales organization.
Swedish chains:
|Whole sale: |Chain: |Turnover 2008 mdr SEK |
|ICA: |ICA Maxi |22,3 |
| |ICA Kvantum |23,7 |
| |Supermarket |31,5 |
| |ICA Nära |14,7 |
|Coop: |Supermarkets |11,8 |
| |Other (Konsum, Coop Nära etc.) |25,9 |
|Axfood: |Willy’s |18,6 |
| |Hemköp |10,3 |
| |Prisextra |0,7 |
|Bergendahls: |Favör, Citygross etc. |9,5 |
| |Vi *) |4,9 |
|Lidl: |Lidl |5,2 |
|Netto: |Netto |3,5 |
|Small Shops Sweden: |Pressbyrån |2,0 |
| |7-eleven |0,9 |

*) Axfood is today the supplier of Vi –stores (except Matrbellerna)

Food industry organisations:
The most important organisation for suppliers and producers is DLF, Daglivaruleverantörernas Förbund.

DLF is an interest group for companies who produce and sell their products to grocery stores and service stores, restaurants and institutional kitchens. In Sweden, you can get important information about the markets and trends via DLF.
Grev Turegatan 11 c
Puh +46 (0)8-588 845 00 [pic]
[pic][pic]Sähköpostiosoite on suojattu roskapostiohjelmia vastaan, Javascript-tuen tulee olla päällä nähdäksesi osoitteen [pic][pic]
Livsmedelsindustrin i Sverige (Swedish Food Federation) is an interest group for small and big food stuff producers.. They publish a brochure ” Livsmedelsåret” which can be read on their web pages.

Livsmedelsindustrin i Sverige Li
Box 55680 (Storgatan 19)
Puh +46 (0)8-762 65 00
Fax +46 (0)8-762 65 12 [pic]
[pic][pic]Sähköpostiosoite on suojattu roskapostiohjelmia vastaan, Javascript-tuen tulee olla päällä nähdäksesi osoitteen [pic][pic]
Livsmedelshandlareförbundet SSLF is an interest group for Swedish independent shopkeepers.. It represents ICA, Hemköp or Tempo Handlar etc and makes up 60 % of the total grocery store sales.
Regeringsgatan 109
Puh +46 (0)8-441 91 90
Fax +46 (0)8-441 91 99 [pic]
[pic][pic]Sähköpostiosoite on suojattu roskapostiohjelmia vastaan, Javascript-tuen tulee olla päällä nähdäksesi osoitteen [pic][pic]
Svensk Dagligvaruhandel consists of Axfood AB, Bergendahlsgruppen AB, Coop Sverige AB, ICA Sverige AB and Vi -stores. This organization handles logistics, economic policy and product safety.
Svensk Dagligvaruhandel
Regeringsgatan 60
Puh +46 (0)8-762 78 05 [pic]
[pic][pic]Sähköpostiosoite on suojattu roskapostiohjelmia vastaan, Javascript-tuen tulee olla päällä nähdäksesi osoitteen [pic][pic]
Svensk Servicehandel & Fast Food gathers together all service stores like kiosks, fast food / food stuff chains and local stores. . Svensk Servicehandel & Fast Food cooperates with Butikerna-organization ( [pic]) which has all independent shopkeepers under its umbrella..
Svensk Servicehandel & Fast Food
Box 92073
(Smedjegatan 6, Nacka)
Puh +46 (0)8-505 970 30
Fax +46 (0)8-505 970 39 [pic]
[pic][pic]Sähköpostiosoite on suojattu roskapostiohjelmia vastaan, Javascript-tuen tulee olla päällä nähdäksesi osoitteen [pic][pic]
Svensk Handel is an umbrella organization of the Swedish retail and whole sale trade and works mainly with general business and employer matters.
Svensk Handel
Regeringsgatan 60
Puh +46 (0)10-47 18 500
Fax +46 (0)10-47 18 665 [pic]
[pic][pic]Sähköpostiosoite on suojattu roskapostiohjelmia vastaan, Javascript-tuen tulee olla päällä nähdäksesi osoitteen [pic][pic]
ECR Sveriges goal is to develop the chain between producers and consumers(Efficient Consumer Response). ECR Sverige tries to diminish the deficits and unnecessary producing by optimizing the choices and aiming to a demand guided production and goods refilling.
ECR Sverige
Box 1178 (Vasagatan 46, IV)
Puh +46 (0)8-50 01 55
Fax +46 (0)8-50 10 10 01 [pic]
[pic][pic]Sähköpostiosoite on suojattu roskapostiohjelmia vastaan, Javascript-tuen tulee olla päällä nähdäksesi osoitteen [pic][pic]

Worldwide: (the world’s leading website delivering up-to-date information on the myriad of differing cultural approaches that can be encountered when working in the global business environment)

← cultural compatibility test!! ( "Cultural translator" website for business people with a FREE on-line guide to overcoming cultural and social distance in 25 EU countries( English, French or German)and it is practical and relevant for entrepreneurs who want to hit the ground running in their international business dealings )

Finland /Sweden: (The Finnish Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden) (The Swedish Embassy in Helsinki, Finland) (Finpro Association, supporter of Finnish companies' internationalization) (Finnish-Swedish Chamber of Commerce /Finsk-svensk Handelskammare) MD Marja Kahra (food industry assignments) (industrialised B2B marketing, helps companies to commericialize their products and services ) -( Vipu and FinSve-chamber of Commerce have a web site service together ( ( Swedish Trade Council /Sveriges Exportrådet) (FinTra offers international business management training in nearly 20 countries ) (Official co-operation in the Nordic region) (Statistics Sweden) (Free public portal for enterprises, entrepreneurs and future entrepreneurs provided by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy) (Finnvera is a specialised financing company owned by the State of Finland and it has an official Export Credit Agency (ECA) status) (National Consumer Research Centre) /In Swden (Finnish Competition Authority) / In Sweden ( Technical Research Centre of Finland)

Local : ( Services for entrepreneurs and businessa life: national and international contacts, networks, running the business, Närpes, Finland) (Viexpo is an independent regional expert on internationalisation based in the coastal region of Ostrobothnia, Finland ) ( is designed for facilitating and promoting the internationalization of especially small and medium-sized businesse in South Ostrobothnia,Finland) (South Ostrobothnia Chamber of Commerce promotes and supports the economic life of South Ostrobothnia by representing a wide spectrum of local enterprises) (Ostrobothnia Chamber of Commerce)

Agrilinks : [pic] (Agrifood Research Finland)

for example : (Finnish Agriculture and rural industries) (Finnish Food and Drink Industries´ Federation) for example: (Finnish Food market tracking service) (National Technology Platform of Finnish Food Sector Information about Finnish Food R&D, Active Stakeholders, Food Innovations and Culture) -under Food for Life for example: Sapuska – Kansainvälistä liiketoimintaa elintarvikkeista 2009–2012 (International Business of Food Products 2009-2012) -Sapuska-program aims to develop the business life of Finnish fodd stuff sms-companies, to add research, developing and innovation activities and to promote international network activities[pic] Export Group specialized in organic food from Finland and manages the export of organic goods from the participating companies. Functions under FinPro. -( Food Finland theme group -( 2011 Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (In Sweden Jordbruksverket Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira (In Sweden Livsmedelsverket: (Official website of Finnish Food) for example: list of all exporting comapanies in the field (a national Centre of Expertise in Food Development) for example( (Food development Cluster programme) -->Presentations of the conference below:
Report written by Erja Heikkilä, Seinäjoki University for Applied Sciences (2010)

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