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Eight brands you didn’t know were Nordic and two that wish they were

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Eight brands you didn’t know were Nordic and two that wish they were
Røde: Nordic or not? Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash

Plenty of Scandinavian brands have made it overseas, but did you realise these companies have Nordic origins?

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Arla 

A huge supplier of dairy products in the Scandinavia as well as in the United Kingdom, this company’s brand is as recognisable to customers in the UK's Sainsbury’s supermarket as it is in Denmark's Føtex.

What people browsing the aisles in the UK might not realise is that Arla can trace its roots to a cooperative formed at a farm called Stora Arla Gård in the Swedish province of Västmanland way back in the 1880s.

The company came into being in its current form in 2000 after a merger with Denmark's MD Foods, and now has its headquarters in Denmark’s second city, Aarhus.

Joe & The Juice

The first Joe & The Juice opened in Copenhagen in 2002, founded by Kaspar Basse -- a case of nominative determinism given the thumping music played inside the cafés.

This hugely successful company has now expanded across the world with hundreds of locations in Europe, Asia and Australia, as well as a presence in North America.

Its fast style and juicy branding aren’t something you’d immediately associate with Denmark, and the company doesn’t use its Danishness to market itself. This has done it no harm: its majority stake was recently purchased for over 600 million dollars.

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Photo by Lawless Capture on Unsplash

Jack & Jones

Visible in high streets everywhere, men’s clothing chain Jack & Jones sounds and looks American but was actually founded in Denmark in 1990, starting to establish itself abroad in the late 2000s.

It is now part of the enormous Bestseller corporation, which has its headquarters in the Danish town of Brande, and is a major employer of local and international staff.

COS / & Other stories

These two women’s clothing brands are not as outwardly Scandinavian as their parent company, the famously Swedish H&M.

They have different identities and, in the case of & Other stories, deliberately design some of their products to look like they come from other parts of the world (the company has ateliers in Paris and LA).

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by & Other Stories (@andotherstories)

Espresso House and Waynes

These two coffee house chains are both Swedish, but it’s not easy to tell.

Espresso House has over 500 branches in the Nordic countries and Germany. While its menu feels like a hybrid of Scandinavian styles, the décor in some branches – depicting the first ever Espresso House in Lund in 1996 – does give the game away.

Waynes -- formerly the more grammatically acceptable Wayne’s Coffee -- was founded in Stockholm in 1994. It has no connection to its contemporary, the movie Wayne’s World. It can now be found all over Europe and Asia, not least at German Autobahn services (after being acquired by Germany’s Tank & Rast Gruppe).

Espresso House in Finland. Photo by K8 on Unsplash

Helly Hansen

This outdoor and fashion wear brand rose to popularity in the 1990s, when its big puffy ski jackets started appearing as frequently on high streets as they do up in the mountains.

It doesn’t have outwardly Norwegian branding and the “Hansen” isn’t a total giveaway paired with the non-Norwegian sounding “Helly”.

On the subject of under-the-radar Norwegian brands, we found these harder to come across because many big Norwegian companies seem to love putting some variation of “Norway” into their names: Telenor, Equinor and Norwegian Air to name three.

Just as some big Scandinavian companies try and seem American, or at least blandly 'international', there is also no shortage of brands that might like you to think they’re Scandinavian, but are in fact from elsewhere.

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Napapijri

This Italian clothing brand has a Finnish name and uses the Norwegian flag on its products alongside its distinctive black and white lettering.

The company doesn’t claim to actually be from Norway, but says it is “inspired by early polar explorers”.

It has even gone so far as to sue another company, Geographical Norway, for using the Norwegian flag on its products, arguing this was a trademark infringement.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Napapijri (@napapijri)

Røde

The Australian microphone maker Røde has a big market share in Scandinavia, so that sneaky ø could easily lead you to believe it is Danish or Norwegian. Not so, although it does have some links to Sweden.

It was originally named Freedman Electronics by its British founder Harry Freedman, who had spent his younger days in Stockholm working for a Swedish telecoms company, later emigrating to Australia with his wife Astrid and their children.

The Nordic-sounding name evolved after a product was nicknamed “Rodent” in the 1990s. This eventually turned into Røde and the addition of the ‘ø’ was reportedly a nod to Freedman’s family's history.

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