Here you find answers to the most common qustions concerning the swedish wine and spirits market.
Q: What do Swedes drink?
Sweden is not that different from other European contries. In terms of volume the Swedes mainly drink beer, with many domestic breweries. The wine consumption has been growing over the last decades while the spirits consumption has fallen. The Swedish consumers taste is developing all the time. Being a country with almost no domestic wines production we Swedes have learnt to appreciate wines from most regions of the world. The consumers learn more about wines every year and the wine quality and value is improving. People tend to be more prepared to pay up for higher quality. More than 60% of the wine sales at Systembolaget are in Bag-in-Box and Tetrapak. Swedes have also developed a taste for whisky and especially single malt whisky.
Q: How does the Swedish trade for wine and spirits work?
The wine and spirits trade in Sweden has opted out of the free trade rules common for most other products in the EU market. The customer retail market is controlled by a state owned monopoly. It is also possible to sell products directly to licensed restaurants (horeca). Beverages with an alcoholic content below 2,25% are not covered by the monopoly.
Q: How does the monopoly operate?
This state owned company (“Systembolaget”) runs a chain of more than 440 shops containing close to 3 000 different articles of alcoholic beverages. Some of these are distributed through all stores while others are distributed through a fewer number of stores. In addition to this, some +15 000 products are available from Systembolaget’s ordering range. Systembolaget is run as an efficient company with the ambition to serve a broad and first class product range to the Swedish consumers. Systembolaget is only a retailer and is not allowed to act as producer or importer of products. For further reference please visit www.systembolaget.se.
Q: How does Systembolaget choose their product range?
Systembolaget has adopted certain business principles to create a kind of free trade within the monopoly framework. The ambition is to combine a base of popular products with a certain product rotation, where slow moving products are replaced by new products, in order to keep the market open for new products and producers. New products are launched four times a year (March, June, September and December) and in addition to these main launches more exclusive products may be launched in smaller volumes at other times during the year.
This goes hand-in-hand with their aim to offer an attractive and up to date assortment, with high quality products at low costs. To select new products Systembolaget uses a tender process. Tenders are specified to match the trends in the market and the expectations from customers. The idea is to keep the Swedish market very competitive and demanding as well as in line with international trends.
Products may also quality for a listing based on sales performance from the ordering range.
Q: What is the role of the importers?
The importer has a special tax license which enables the trade in alcoholic beverages. Systembolaget requires importers for the supply of products. The importer is the legal supplier to Systembolaget and the importer is buying the products from the producer and selling those to Systembolaget. The importer is responsible for the distribution to and within Sweden and for keeping goods in stock. The importer coordinates the tenders and offers for new products initiated by Systembolaget. The business between Systembolaget and the importer is regulated by an extensive agreement.
The importer also takes care of the marketing of the products in Sweden.
The importer can also sell to restaurant customers, directly or through independent wholesalers.
Q: What kind of marketing activities are allowed?
Swedish alcohol legislation and marketing legislation have strict rules for marketing of alcoholic beverages. In general a high level of moderation is required and no positive associations with drinking are allowed. There is a ban on advertising towards people below age 25, outdoor advertising and many restrictions covering all other advertising.
Q: How is the trade in alcoholic products taxed in Sweden?
All sales of alcoholic products are taxed based on alcohol content. The tax rates are for wine, beer and cider:
Wine, Beer and Cider:
No tax on products up to 2,25% vol alc.
9,65 SEK/l on products ranging between 2,25-4,5% vol alc.
14,26 SEK/l on products ranging between 4,5–7% vol alc.
19,62 SEK/l on products ranging between 7-8,5% vol alc.
27,49 SEK/l on products ranging between >8,5-15% vol alc.
57,53 SEK/l on products ranging between >15-18% vol alc.
The tax for a 75 cl bottle of normal wine is 20,62 SEK alcohol tax and 5,15 SEK VAT on the alcohol tax (total tax 25,77 SEK).
521,76 SEK/l on products containing 100% vol alc.
The tax for a 70 cl bottle of spirits (40% vol.) is 146,09 SEK and 36,52 SEK VAT on the alcohol tax (total tax 182,62 SEK).
The tax is normally paid by the importer under a certain tax regime with the Special Swedish Entity for alcohol taxes. VAT of 25% is added and included in the consumer price.
Q: Can importers, wholesalers or retailers sell directly to consumers?
The answer is no. Systembolaget has the monopoly to sell products to consumers in Sweden, with exception of tax free stores at airports and ferries. Restaurants may have a license to serve conumers.
Q: Can anyone import directly for their own consumption?
Yes, in general this is possible. You can, with certain volume restrictions, bring alcohol beverages over the boarder while travelling. You can also buy or “import” directly for your own consumption, but you are liable to pay Swedish alcohol tax on all such products.
Q: Explain how restaurants can buy and sell alcoholic beverage?
Restaurants need a permission to serve alcoholic beverages. Permits are applied for, and given by, authorities on community level. There are about 13 000 permits granted in Sweden. To get a permit the restaurant is required, among other things, to serve food. Restaurants can buy wine, spirits and strong beer directly from importers or via wholesalers.