‘Beer war’ brewing in Northern Norway

A fight is brewing over space on the beer shelves of supermarket Rema 1000 in the northern part of Norway.

‘Beer war’ brewing in Northern Norway
A marketing professor said Rema 1000's move could backfire because "there is a lot of identity in beer". Photo: Iris
The supermarket announced on Sunday that it would focus more on local microbrews in its stores, much to the chagrin of the Tromsø brewery Mack, which said its sales would be so impacted by the move that it would likely have to lay off employees. 
The duelling announcements from the two companies have set up a battle over whether Rema 1000 or Mack beer is the stronger brand among consumers in the north, according to Lars Erling Olsen, a marketing professor at Oslo College. 
Olsen said Rema’s move is understandable, given the supermarket’s new three-year ‘best friend deal’ with Danish brewing giant Carlsberg. 
“It's an attempt to get fewer suppliers and a larger-scale operation and thus save costs,” he said, adding that Rema 1000 faces the pressures of a tough retail market.
But Rema’s deal with Carlsberg and its accompanying decision to give more shelf space to microbreweries isn’t expected to just hurt Mack, which markets itself as the world’s most northern brewery. 
Local breweries including Bergen-based Hansa and Kristiansand’s CB will also be hard, if not impossible, to find in Rema 1000 stores up north. And Olsen said the move might backfire. 
“The reality is that customers are going to get fewer options. That’s where Rema’s market power will come into play. Will people accept it or not? If Mack has sufficient market strength, people will stop shopping at Rema 1000,” he said.
The marketing professor added that for many customers, the choice of beer on the shelves could absolutely determine which supermarket they’ll choose. 
“There is a lot of identity in beer,” Olsen said. 
Norway's consumer rights watchdog, Forbrukerrådet, said it didn’t say anything wrong with Rema 1000’s strategy of teaming up with Carlsberg and using the remainder of its shelf space for microbrews. 
“We want to see good competition in the grocery market; it’s good for the consumer. And we understand why Rema 1000, as the market’s smallest player, wants to take steps to strengthen its position,” the council’s trade director, Gunstein Instefjord, said. 
Instefjord added that at the end of the day it is a good thing if supermarkets distinguish themselves from one another. 
“It is we the consumers who decide, and if the store doesn’t have what we want, we’ll go to another store. It remains to be seen whether Rema will appeal to consumers,” he said. 


Norwegian Christmas beers are more numerous than ever

Christmas beer is no longer just a dark and under-fermented seasonal beverage that appears on Norwegian shelves in November and December.

Norwegian Christmas beers are more numerous than ever
Photo: Anette Kirkeby/Creative Commons

Nearly 250 different types of Christmas beer from both Norwegian and foreign breweries can now be purchased during the festive season (and in the weeks leading up to it).

“Many new brands are being launched and we have seen a huge increase in the range of products in recent years,” Anders Roås Stueland, a product advisor with national alcoholic beverage retailer Vinmonopolet, said to news agency NTB.

“There is also a lot more variation within the category today,” Stueland added.

‘Juleøl’ (Christmas beer) used to signify dark, under-fermented beer, but can now take the form of wheat beer, stout, bock and doppelbock, barley wine, red ale, IPA and double IPA, or dubbel, tripel and quadrupel.

Meanwhile, several breweries have begun experimenting with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, citrus peel and cardamom to add extra flavour to their Christmas beers.

Seasoning of Christmas beer is a relatively innovation in Norway, but is more common in Belgium, where hot, spicy beer – reminiscent of mulled wine or the Norwegian gløgg – is common the festive season.

Christmas beer has been brewed in Norway for over 1,500 years. The seasonal drink was banned during World War II but the tradition was resumed in the mid-1950s.

Traditional Christmas beer is usually stored longer than other types before being released for sale, but it also has longer shelf life. The strongest versions can be kept for several years.

READ ALSO: Norwegians set records for beer consumption during hot summer