For members


EXPLAINED: Why food in Norway is so expensive

Groceries in Norway are among the priciest in Europe, but have you ever wondered why? 

Pictured is a supermarket's fresh produce section.
There are a few reasons why groceries in Norway are so pricey. Pictured is a supermarket's fresh produce section. Photo by Mehrad Vosoughi on Unsplash

One of the first things people will say to you when asking about life in Norway is “I’ve heard it’s really expensive”, often  before asking how much a beer costs. 

Prices for food and non-alcoholic beverages in Norway are the second highest in Europe, according to Eurostat

In 2018 the cost of food and non-alcoholic drinks was 63 percent more expensive in Norway than the EU average, according to a Statistics Norway report. The data agency noted that food prices were 40 percent higher than in Sweden and 25 percent pricier compared to Denmark. 

There isn’t one single reason why food in Norway is so expensive. Instead, several factors contribute to the dizzying prices. 

Competition laws and subsidised farms

Dairy and meat products from abroad face high import tolls to protect Norwegian produce and ensure that Norwegian products remain competitive domestically and that farms in the country remain profitable. 

However, the country only produces around 50 percent of the food it needs to be self-sufficient, not including fish, meaning tolls are paid on a lot of the food sold in supermarkets. These tolls are then passed onto to customers in the form of higher prices.

Also, farms in Norway are relatively small compared to other parts of the world, and there are strict laws on the welfare of animals. This makes farming less profitable, so farmers sell their produce for much higher prices than other countries.

Every year the government pumps several billion kroner into farming subsidies to ensure the industry remains viable. Norwegian dairy and meat might not seem cheap in the slightest, but these subsidies help to stop prices being even higher still. 

The prices of dairy in Norway are already the highest out of the 37 European countries that Eurostat uses to compare grocery prices, so it’s hard to imagine how high they could go without the government supporting farms. 

READ MORE: Why dairy products in Norway could become more expensive and less varied

A handful of brands dominate the market

Another factor driving high prices in the Scandinavian country is the lack of competition in the market. 

Many living in Norway will have noticed, and even bemoaned, that there are fewer brands and products on offer than in other countries. 

For example, Tine dominates the dairy product market, Notura and Gilde are among the only major players in the meat industry, and Orkla makes up most of the processed food market. The lack of competition among various brands means there’s no real incentive for the few dominant brands there are to compete on price. 

Furthermore, there aren’t many choices when it comes to major supermarket chains. Norgesgruppen, Rema and Coop are the main competitors, and with so little competition, the supermarkets are not drawn into price slashing wars to get customers through their doors.  

High costs for producers and supermarkets 

Norway is a costly country for all, not just for consumers but also for supermarkets and suppliers. For example, Norway is known just as much for its famously high wages as it is for being expensive. This means supermarkets, food producers, and farms have to pay higher salaries to staff than elsewhere. 

This is also forms part of the explanation as to why eating out in Norway is expensive. 


The entirety of Norway’s food costs can’t all be pinned on suppliers and supermarkets. Instead, some of the costs that households in Norway pay for their shopping are directly or indirectly passed on from the government in the form of various taxes. 

The government taxes many things such as sugar, alcohol and tobacco very highly with these taxes driving up the price of everyday products. More indirect costs passed on include toll roads and high fuel taxes which mean high distribution overheads for producers and supermarkets. 

How expensive is food really?          

According to Statistics Norway, people living in Norway spend around 51 percent of their total income on the cost of living. 

READ MORE: What do workers in Norway spend their salaries on?

However, only 11 percent of a person’s total income a year is spent on food and non-alcoholic beverages. Compared to most of the rest of Europe, this is lower. The average proportion of wages spent on food across 37 countries around the continent was 18 percent.

Only six of the countries measured had a lower share of income spent on food and non-alcoholic beverages than Norway. 

Statistics Norway said the reason the percentage of wages spent on food was so low was the high salaries and a large amount of disposable income.

“When inhabitants of a country become wealthier, the share of the household budget spent on food and other necessities will normally decrease as consumption of other goods and services increases,” Statistics Norway wrote in its report on food prices

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For members


Exchange rate: What are your options if you live in Norway but have income in pound sterling?

The value of the British pound has fallen steeply against the dollar in recent days but also against the Euro – and the krone. So what should you do if you live in Norway but have income – such as a pension, rental income or a salary – in pound sterling?

Exchange rate: What are your options if you live in Norway but have income in pound sterling?

Exchange rates might sound like a spectacularly dull topic, but if you live in Norway (where, naturally, your day-to-day living expenses are paid in kroner) but have income from the UK in pounds, then the movement of the international currency markets will have a major impact on the money that ends up in your pocket.

This is not an uncommon situation – Norway-based Brits may work remotely as freelancers from British companies and be paid for invoices in pounds, while retired Brits might be receiving a British pension.

Others might have income from rental properties or investments.

So a big loss in the value of the pound against the euro – and by extension, the krone – can have a major impact on Brits in Norway.

The most recent fall in the value of the pound was sparked by the UK government’s new mini budget and has already seen a relative recovery. 

But while this one-time fall is spectacular, it’s also part of a longer-term trend in the fall of the value of the pound, especially since Brexit, that has seen people such as foreign-based pensioners lose a big chunk of their income.

So if you have income in pounds, what are your options?

Income in kroner – obviously, this isn’t an option for everyone, especially pensioners, but the best way to protect against currency exchange shocks is to make sure that you’re paid in the same currency that you spend in.

While the krone is traditionally weak against the pound, it is known as a safe and stable currency as Norway has no net debt, and the Norwegian krone isn’t pegged to another currency. 

Alternatively, income in euros: the advantage of the euro is that for those being paid from abroad, billing in euros means you could work in any EU country – including the anglophone ones like Ireland – and get your salary in euros.

Depending on your employer, it might also be possible for you to ask to bill in euros. 

Work in Norway – if you’re currently not working or want to switch to local currency income, then an obvious option is to take up some work in Norway.

Depending on your work and residency status, as well as the field you work, the practicality of this option ranges wildly from one person to the next.

READ ALSO: What is Norway’s job market like for foreigners at the moment?

Exchange rate – if your income can only be paid in pounds, it’s crucial to ensure that you get the best exchange rate possible and that you don’t waste money on international transfer fees.

The best options here are online banks or money transfer services, which compete on the rates that they offer, so usually have the most advantageous rate.

Some online banks also have the option to set up accounts in both pounds and kroner, so that you can receive money in pounds and spend it in kroner without having to make bank transfers, which can attract fees.