Distrita TV visit at Iceland in Oslo

When it comes to grocery shopping, Norwegians are perhaps not the most adventurous people. We already know what happened to Lidl, but Iceland seems to have a way different strategy which makes them entering the Norwegian market in a different way. Instead of trying to build their own stores, Iceland is using existing business locations in Norway which is great. Also, they have got a nice deal with Europris and the Circle K petrol stations all over the country.

I can reveal that the Norwegian food market is mostly run by three major local players in the market and you can understand why the opening of an international supermarket chain like Iceland Foods is big news. Distrita has covered Iceland here in a not too old article but in this article, I wanted to sum up Iceland in Norway.

A new player in the Norwegian food market

Norwegian supermarkets are not lacking in options. Especially when it comes to frozen food. Norwegians love it and Iceland fits into that thinking it seems. But for all their in-store diversity, the Norwegian food market’s offerings are quite standardized. There are still three grocery retailers that dominate the food market, all of them Norwegian companies:

  • Norgesgruppen owns the Kiwi, Meny, Joker, and Spar chains
  • Coop that owns Coop Extra, Coop Mega, Coop Prix, Obs and Matkroken
  • Reitan that owns Rema 1000

International supermarket chains have tried changing that in the past, but without success. Lidl is the most notable example, which lasted only four years before leaving Norway back in 2008. So what does Iceland Foods bring to the proverbial (and literal) table? They seem to have won the trust of many Norwegians, but much more work needs to be done before they have a grip on the Norwegian market. But from my point of view, it looks like they are doing great progress.

Iceland is a nice and spacious. Here is from St. Hanshaugen store in Oslo

More than 800 stores in the United Kingdom with a Green policy that fits the Norwegian mind

With more than 800 stores across the United Kingdom and a presence in 40 countries. Iceland Foods is a veritable powerhouse expanding. With the United Kingdom now officially leaving the European Union. Trying to enter other markets outside of the European Union is a nice strategy I think.

Iceland Foods got more than 40 years of experience in the frozen foods market and a brand that’s all about offering quality food at affordable prices with a focus on removing more and more plastic from their products. At an Iceland Foods store, you can find anything from ready meals and desserts in the United Kingdom and Norway. You also find great fish, meat, and vegetable groceries too. Although strongly positioned across Europe, the chain didn’t have a presence in Scandinavia until now.

In May 2018, the very first Iceland Foods opened in Asker. It is a store that sits just outside Oslo. Shortly after, a second shop followed in Larvik, a town in Vestfold county that’s also a key summer tourism destination because of its rich history.

Then in 2019, a store was opened in the middle of St. Hanshaugen in Oslo which is the one that I am visiting the most. Very friendly staff and they have a high-class customer service. Once I forgot to bring with me my wallet, but I had my phone with me and Vipps which lets you send money over the phone here in Norway. So the helpful cashier helped me out and let me pay for my groceries through it. Very good service that I will never forget. You reach this Iceland store by either taking bus line 37 or bus line 21 to St. Hanshaugen.

Also, Iceland has opened at the big shopping mall Stovner Senter in Oslo and then the latest one opened at Bekkestua, which is also located just outside of Oslo borders. You can take the tram line 13 to the end of Metro Line 3 to Bekkestua station. It is worth visiting Iceland in Norway. I don’t just say this because I want to support them but because they have brought so much diversity of food to Norway. It can be a bit boring with the Norwegian stores because they all sell the same products but Iceland sells different food also from the United Kingdom which makes them a bit unique here. Only at Iceland in Norway, you can get yourself Serial such as Kellogs Frosties is back in Norway, and if you want to get the British delicacy Marmite. They have that too!

Lots of frozen pizzas to chose from at Iceland in Oslo, Norway

Iceland Group’s operations director, Ewan McMahon, said there was a “hugely enthusiastic response” from customers at the newly-opened Asker shop in Norway. In contrast to most of the countries where Iceland Foods is present they primarily target the sizeable British ex-pat communities of Spain and its colonies. The same goes for Portugal too for instance.

But in Norway Iceland primarily target Norwegians as they are much pickier. Hence Iceland needed to have fresh groceries including frozen food. You can get the most essential vegetables, fruits, and baked goods. Also including lots of Norwegian milk and cheese products they have mixed the products that Norwegians love the most together with Iceland’s own delicious chocolate mouses which you don’t get in regular food chains in Norway. It’s a good thing then that the chain places importance in values that Norwegians also hold very dear. Also, the pricing of the groceries is on part with Kiwi, Coop Extra, and Rema 1000.

It is however nice to see that the variations of frozen food that Iceland sells start to work on Norwegian people. It takes at least 4 years for Norwegians to get used to something new. Most Norwegian love frozen pizza etc but that’s from the Norwegian pizza makers at Stabburet which makes the frozen Grandios pizzas. But the grocery market has changed a lot in the last 10 years in Norway. Even the Norwegian grocery stores now stock Dr. Oetker pizzas and there was even an attempt to introduce the chocolate pizza to the market here.

Iceland, on the other hand, does also have Dr. Oetker pizzas but they also have 10-15 other types of frozen pizza types in all sizes. I’ve tasted them and they all taste better than Grandiosa pizza. Just ask any foreigner that has come to Norway about the taste of the original Grandiosa pizza. It is nothing special at all but Norwegians love the taste as its been with us since the 1980s and it is just now that they have competition. So they are making other variations of it too.

The power of frozen is what Norwegians love

It’s a known fact that frozen foods are doing well in Norway: a certain frozen pizza, for instance, is the number one preferred food in the country. But for the most part, the Norwegian perception of frozen food is it’s “less healthy” in some groups. But young people and those working a lot seem to have the right taste for Iceland products and so this grocery store chain seems to have a good chance of gaining that market.

Especially with their store at St. Hanshaugen in the city center of Oslo which is in the middle of apartment houses area where lots of young people’s lives are the most vise strategy I’ve ever seen here in Norway. Why didn’t Lidl try to do this at the beginning instead of using millions on trying to convince the Oslo government to be able to build their own type of stores? Iceland Foods is attempting to change people’s views on frozen food and for me, it been an eyeopener. All of the frozen foods that I have bought from Iceland in the last two years have been great. I’ve never felt bad and the taste of their products is at a higher level for the same price as you pay for the same products in the other Norwegian grocery stores.

Iceland opened at two locations in Oslo Norway
Iceland opened at two locations in Oslo Norway

The Iceland food chain introduces, among other things, a range of vegetables that have been freshly frozen (within two and a half hours of being picked). Many of them already chopped and peeled to save you cooking time. Even avocados, one of Norwegians’ favorite foods, can be found frozen here. The products that they sell fits well within the mentality of many Norwegians. The older generation that didn’t like change is slowly fading away and so Norwegians taste for grocery has changed a lot. People are simply more aware of other types of products and that 1000 different Norwegian grocery products aren’t enough. The variety in the stores here is too small and so thousands of people go over to Sweden for buying lots of food there that you cant find in Norwegian stores. Iceland is changing that a bit now and now we urge them to expand to Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger, and Tromsø.

Apart from the convenience of it all, the key principle is that freezing vegetables combats food waste; just think of how many fruits you’ve had to throw away because they went bad before you’ve gotten around to eating them. Iceland Foods is very vocal about combating food waste, as well as about eliminating plastic packaging. And with Norway’s latest attempts to do the same at its supermarkets, it looks like Iceland Foods has come to the right place for environmentally-conscious consumers. Iceland in Norway seems to be a success and its not only because they are new but because people’s minds in Norway have changed a lot.

I really hope that Iceland will make it. They deserve to be successful. Now they just need to settle down everywhere and become an important competitor.

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