Early winner emerges in Northern Norway’s ‘beer war’

Supermarket Rema 1000’s decision to ditch region local breweries in Northern Norway in favour of Danish giant Carlsberg and local breweries may be backfiring.

Early winner emerges in Northern Norway’s ‘beer war’
Rema's decision to give more shelf space to Danish giant Carlsberg, brewer of Tuborg, angered local consumers. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix
Business site E24 reported that Rema stores sold 86,000 fewer litres of beer during the first four weeks of the year than in the same period last year. Meanwhile, its competitors Kiwi and Extra increased their beer sales by 209,000 and 290,000 litres respectively. 
The numbers come after Rema 1000 decided to give less shelf space to regional favourites like Tromsø brewery Mack, the Bergen-based Hansa and Kristiansand’s CB. Mack said it would be so impacted by Rema's move that it would likely have to lay off employees. 
Lars Erling Olsen, a marketing professor at Oslo College, warned at the outset of the regional ‘beer war’ that for many Norwegians their beer is more important than their supermarket. 
“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,” Olsen said. “There is a lot of identity in beer.”
Rema CEO Ole Robert Reitan said last week that the lower sales were a direct result of the clash with regional brewers but declined to comment directly on the latest sales figures. 
Competing supermarket chain Coop, however, said its stores were benefiting from customers’ beer patriotism. 
“Beer is an important product line for customers and local pride is strongly attached to people’s local breweries,” communications manager Harald Kristiansen told E24. 
One Northern Norway resident was so committed to his beer of choice that he ordered 1,600 litres of Haakon Mack directly from the brewer to protest the Rema 1000 decision, Tidens Krav reported. 
“In this battle I will do my part to show the power of consumers,” Roger Rossvoll from the town of Kårvåg said. 

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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