Guide to the Swedish market and state monopoly Systembolaget
The Swedish market for wine is highly dependent on the state owned monopoly Systembolaget – the only retail store allowed to sell alcoholic beverages to consumers. Systembolaget follows the market trend and consumer demands and use different evaluation tools to continuously adjust their product range. When Systembolaget adds a new product to their standard selection, this is done by a tender. Importers and wine suppliers can then submit a bid to supply a product, they can also sell directly to restaurants or other liquor licensed businesses. Below is a summary of the key points worth keeping in mind and for further information, please visit: www.omsystembolaget.se/english
Systembolaget’s network Systembolaget has a nationwide retail network of approximately 446 stores and approximately 490 agents serving smaller communities. There were 126.1 million customers visiting the stores in 2019.
Product range Systembolaget’s stores offer a wide and quality-assured range of products. The product range of wine, strong beer and spirits is one of the most comprehensive in the world. The standard range comprises a total of approximately 2,500 items, which is purchased through tenders where products are tested blindly. The standard range make about 13% of the total range but it represents close to 95% of the sale volume and value at Systembolaget.
In addition new products are added to a temporary selection at least twice a month which are than being offered both in a selected number of retail stores and on-line. The sales performance over the coming six months will than determine if the products are to be retained.
Their suppliers also carry approx. 12,200 items in stock that are available for order from any Systembolaget store. These products are not quality assured by Systembolaget and the sales performance will determine whether they are than qualified to be moved to the standard range.
The entire purchasing process is brand-neutral and quality certified. Approximately 2,000 new products are launched every year and there are around 800 active suppliers who offer drinks from roughly 5 000 producers.
Alcohol consumption Looking at from where the wine is sourced for the average consumer in Sweden close to 85% come from Systembolaget, 7% restaurants and 6% from travelling.
Purchasing process For high volume products it’s essential to get into the standard range at Systembolaget and this assortment is totally controlled by Systembolaget. There is two ways to qualify for inclusion within the standard assortment. The main way is through tenders which is announced by Systembolaget.
The head of each category makes an assortment strategy which is the basis for Systembolagets launch plan. The tender testing is a blind testing done by three individuals and the wines get a score from 1 to 9 and the wine that get the highest score win the tender.
According to Swedish law Systembolaget can only buy products through a Swedish importer/ beverage supplier. The principle of equal treatment means that Systembolaget must apply the same terms and conditions to all beverage suppliers at any given time and is not at liberty to negotiate the wording of them with one or several individual suppliers. The conditions are regulated in our purchasing terms.
The purchasing routines mean that a great many suppliers are offered access to the market and that the market is open even to small suppliers and producers. The deciding factor is quality of the product alone, and not by other factors. Included in the purchasing terms and together with the other Nordic monopolies Systembolaget has a common Code of Conduct that all Nordic importers and their producers must follow. The Code of Conduct is based on Global Compact´s ten principles, ILO´s labour standards and the Ruggie Report with the purpose of making sure that all products sold through all Nordic monopolies are produced in a fair way.
An extensive analysis about the Swedish market is summarized in an annual launch strategy.
All coming launches are announced and briefly described in a launch plan that is published twice a year.
The launches are then specified in requests for tenders that are published four times a year approximately seven to eight months before launch
Launch strategy, launch plans and requests for tenders are all available for all approved beverage suppliers.
Product samples for each request for tender are asked for if the tender is formally correct and the offered product is corresponding with what is stated in the request for tender.
The final selection is made by a tasting panel in a blind tasting. The product that has the highest quality and is corresponding to the tasting profile written in the request for tender is the product launched.
A quality follow up based on both sensorial analysis and chemical analysis by our own laboratory is performed just prior to launch to make sure that the delivered products in the stores are identical to the product that took part in the tender tasting.
All products launched are regularly evaluated and the level of distribution is changed to follow consumer demand as defined in our purchasing terms.
Systembolaget’s Launch plan In order to offer our customers security and sustainability, we continuously seek to develop the product range. A wide choice of product as well as products newsworthy is important.
Working with ethics and anti-corruption Systembolaget has zero tolerance for corruption. Equal treatment of suppliers and good business ethics are core components of our operations. Here you can find out more about how they work with ethics and anti-corruption. Click here to read more.
The available for order range is not the assortment of Systembolaget but rather the assortment of the importers and Systembolaget is only really handling part of the distribution. The consumers are buying these products in Systembolagets physical stores or online and then the products are delivered to a Systembolaget retail network. These products are not tested or evaluated by Systembolaget. Wines that are selling in enough volumes can than replace products in the standard assortment and get a bigger retail distribution. This evaluation is done four times a year. However, wines that have recently been included in the standard assortment is retained for 9 months to get a fair chance to be established. At the moment close to one third of the standard segment started out in the available for order range whereby qualifying through sales performance to be included in the standard segment.
The temporary range is for the more exclusive part of the product range and products are added to this assortment by the the person at Systembolaget responsible for that particular market or region. If he or she concludes that this particular wine is attractive enough to be added to the temporary assortment there will be a negotiation between Systembolaget and the importer.
Weblaunches – the most unique wines where volumes are miniscule is only made available online through Systembolaget.se. They are launched every Thursday and are only available as long as volumes last i.e. in most cases for only a few days.
HoReCa (Hotels, Restaurants and catering) Many import companies focus their sales towards the HoReCa segment, and only keep their products available to consumers through Systembolaget’s online ordering service. It’s therefore good to keep in mind, that exporting to Sweden not necessarily mean an entry at Systembolaget. In any case, the gastronomy scene in Sweden can also be an excellent platform for your wine, and many prefer to work towards gastronomy rather than Systembolaget.
Furthermore, many restaurants now obtain the necessary license and permits to import wine themselves, in order to be able to expand the list of potential suppliers. If you are contacted by a restaurant who wish to import your wine, they will let you know what information they require. Please note that most restaurants use the wines in their own businesses only.
Private import It’s also possible for consumers to make a request for a private import, through Systembolaget. In process, the consumer fill out a request to Systembolaget where they state which producer they would like to buy from and which wines. Systembolaget will then contact the producer with information regarding the request. It’s then the producer’s choice to comply or deny the request. Please note that the charge for transport of wines with private import can be from 100-200 € per request, which is paid by the consumer. Private import is therefore mainly carried out where there is larger quantities requested or for very specific requests.
Directly to consumers Swedish consumers are allowed to buy wines directly from the producers and it is always the consumer that is responsible for paying the tax if no other agreement is made. If the consumer is supposed to pay the tax, the producer only provides a standard invoice including German VAT.
To buy wine directly from producers, a certain set of rules must be applied.
The consumer must organize and pay for the transportation. If you do not make a temporary registration for “distansförsäljning”, but leave it to the consumer to pay and declare taxes, it is essential that the consumer is the one to organize and pay for the transport of the wines.
The pricing model in Sweden is as follows. On top of the price for the producer including transport cost there is mark up for the importer which is than the price to Systembolaget. Systembolaget has a surcharge of 17% of the price and in addition there is a fixed fee of SEK 4,92 per each 75cl bottle. On top of this there is an alcohol tax depending on the alcohol level of the product, which for wines in the 8,5-15,0% bracket, is SEK 26,18 per liter. Then finally there is VAT of 25%. As illustrated by the table below the more expensive the wine the lower the final price to the consumer as part of the surcharges are fixed and not related to the price.
Guide to the Swedish market and state monopoly Systembolaget
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