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Why this Danish winery has gone into the Swedish system

Denmark’s Andersen Winery has just arrived on Systembolaget – db discovers more about the challenges and opportunities that come with cracking the Swedish state’s monopoly. 

Systembolaget is famously challenging to get into – the Swedish state-owned monopoly on drinks sales in retail, intended to lower alcohol consumption, requires producers to overcome numerous hurdles, including a blind tasting of the drinks against other competitors.

Although there are now signs of the system loosening, with small-scale breweries, distilleries and winemakers permitted to sell directly to customers, for non-Swedish producers it can still prove to be a lengthy process.

Morten Stengaard, co-founder and CEO of Bemakers, a Danish company that works with a number of drinks brands wishing to deal with the Nordic monopolies, offered the drinks business his insight into Systembolaget.

Commenting on the appeal of Sweden as a market, Stengaard noted the country’s “high rate of innovation and early adoption of new products” and “high standard of living and relatively strong purchasing power” – with Swedes having the disposable income to spend on “premium and niche beverages”.

While Denmark is not exactly a viticultural hotspot, it does have producers that make ‘wine’ of a sort – Andersen Winery, located in Mols Bjerge, to the north of the city of Aarhus, produces sparkling beverages made from fruits such as apples, gooseberries and redcurrants. The highest ABV for the products in its range is around 11.5%.

Stengaard suggested that Danish wine brands in general appeal to their neighbours over on the other side of the Øresund Bridge: “Swedish consumers are very open to trying and exploring new products. Many Danish wine producers have introduced new styles, like Andersen Winery doing sparkling fruit wine, or Frederiksdal doing cherry wine, and that intrigues the Swedish consumer.”

Given Andersen Winery’s relative proximity to Sweden, around a three hour drive from the border, db posed the question of whether there is a trend of Swedish consumers visiting Danish producers to stock up at cellar doors before heading back, thus circumventing the need to buy through the state monopoly, but Stengaard said that while wineries were a “popular” destination, a wine run “doesn’t compare with being listed on Systembolaget”.

Getting in

Describing the actual process of entering Systembolaget, Stengaard said that the process for Andersen Winery had been “very smooth”: “Bemakers, as a supplier, manages the entire listing process, including administration and communication with Systembolaget. As the brand owner, Andersen Winery have full transparency into the process and cooperate with Bemakers to set the pricing strategy. Every brand listed on Systembolaget via Bemakers also gain insights into where in Sweden the interest and orders are coming from, ensuring complete transparency.”

Asked about the hardest parts of this process, Stengaard instead tried to offer a more positive perspective on it: “Sales and demand through Systembolaget don’t happen on their own. Andersen Winery understands that they need to invest in the market, working through multiple channels simultaneously. This involves developing the on-trade channel, building brand awareness, presenting and educating about the products, producing local content and recipes, and engaging with end consumers — all while respecting Swedish advertising regulations for alcohol.”

“As the brand owner, Andersen Winery takes the lead on the activation efforts and builds the brand directly with customers, while Bemakers ensures that the operational foundation is in place,” he added, noting that a place in Systembolaget provides the “established infrastructure for delivery and pickup points across Sweden”.

Looking outside of Systembolaget, Stengaard said that Bemakers has plans for “cross-European expansion”, including into “more Nordic monopoly markets”, such as Norway and Finland, where Andersen Winery “will follow suit”.

It isn’t just Nordic producers that are trying to get into Sweden – Hattingley Valley, the Hampshire-based sparkling wine producer, became the first English winery to secure a listing on Systembolaget late last year.

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