How to cater your coffee to Scandinavian consumers

Aidan Gant
May 5, 2022
scandinavian coffee market

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the growing trend of out-of-home coffee consumption in Scandinavia comes with interesting opportunities for those in the specialty sector.

An increasing number of the country’s coffee drinkers are looking for unique, high-quality coffees in cafes. As a result, the number of coffee chains and micro-roasters in Scandinavia is steadily growing.

According to a 2021 survey, Scandinavian consumers define a high-quality coffee shop as one that serves 100% Arabica coffee, has ethical credentials, and offers organic products.

This demand for specialty coffee follows the increased consumer interest in how it is prepared, where it is grown, and how it is processed. This provides roasters with a unique opportunity to showcase their craft as coffee shops introduce more sophisticated varieties of coffee.

Learn more about how roasters can expand business by catering their coffee to Scandinavian consumers.

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scandinavia coffee shop sweden

What are the defining characteristics of the Scandinavian coffee market?

Norway played a vital role in founding the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe in 1998. Additionally, the country helped establish the World Barista Championships in Oslo around the same time.

Since then, Norway has led the way in specialty coffee across Europe – and has brought its Nordic neighbours with it.

Norwegian coffee professionals and educators Tim Wendelboe and Robert Thoresen were early contributors to the development of the specialty coffee scene in Scandinavia.

Each have each won titles and accolades at various global coffee championships, and remain household names for many serious coffee enthusiasts.

Traditional Scandinavian culture treats coffee as a central part of its social conventions. For example, the Swedish concept of “fika” refers to making time to share a cup of coffee with colleagues and friends. Many Swedes consider it essential to make time for fika every day.

Additionally, Norway has a rich tradition of drinking coffee outdoors by preparing “kokekaffe” – or steeped coffee – over an open fire. As brewing kokekaffe does not require any filters, it is considered to be a low-waste brewing method.

Notably, typical consumers in Scandinavian countries expect a higher quality of coffee than they may elsewhere. This may stem from the Scandinavian style of roasting coffee lighter than usual.

Rather than adding flavours through a longer roast, many Scandinavians tend to favour a light roast in order to highlight the intrinsic flavours of the coffee.

xpanding coffee business.

Why should roasters appeal to Scandinavian coffee consumers?

The Scandinavian specialty market is revealing itself as one of the most desirable areas for an expanding coffee business.

The Nordic countries accounted for five out of the six highest coffee consumptions per capita in 2016. Of the Scandinavian nations among these, Norway tops the charts, consuming just under 10kg (22lbs) on average. 

Denmark and Sweden were not far behind, with a typical citizen working their way through between 8.7kg (19lbs) and 8.2kg (18lbs) per year respectively.

With the Norse brewing and consuming almost 200g of coffee a week, the high demand is clear.

Even with such an established market and strong coffee traditions, there are several opportunities for international roasters to break into the Scandinavian market. This is due to the fact that the domestic coffee roasting sector is fairly sparse.

As none of the Nordic countries grow coffee, they rely heavily on trading partners. However, imports of green beans are considerably lower than expected. In 2018, just 4.2% of all green coffee imported to Europe was destined for Scandinavian roasters – a decline from 2016.

As the demand for high grade roasted coffee is unlikely to be satisfied by local businesses, this awards international roasters an rewarding business opportunity.


How can roasters cater to a Scandinavian audience?

In order to successfully appeal to Scandinavian audiences, roasters should consider how they can enhance their products.

One way to entice consumers would be to customise their branding and coffee packaging to reflect Scandinavian design principles.

Essentially, roasters should stick to minimalist and functional designs, with a less-is-more aesthetic. Many Nordic designs use whites, greys, and tan colours, with muted pops of pastel colours.

Other factors that roasters must consider are the regional preferences for flavour profile and coffee style. For instance, in Nordic-style coffee, there is often a preference for light-roasted, fruit-forward coffees. In Scandinavian circles, bright and light coffees tend to be more popular.

In terms of origins, Scandinavian audiences have a strong focus on traceability. Therefore, roasters must ensure this information is clearly communicated to consumers. Conveying a coffee’s story from farm to cup can help a roaster retain customers and may encourage repeat sales.

That said, the sales of coffees that feature sustainability certifications show continuous growth within the Scandinavian market. Northern European consumers will expect to see the highest standards being met when it comes to eco-labelling and ethical credentials.

In order to export coffee to these countries, roasters will need to comply with strict European Union (EU) standards. While Norway is not part of the European Union, it is a member of the European Economic Area, and the same standards apply.

Additionally, organic certification is popular within the region. Notably, Denmark and Sweden have the second and third highest per capita spending on organic produce worldwide.

While Sweden operates their own KRAV ecolabel, Denmark and Norway use their state-owned, red Ø symbol to designate organic produce.

A particularly well-recognised certification is the Rainforest Alliance. This certification tells consumers that the product or ingredient was produced using methods that support the organisation’s high sustainability standards.

A recent survey indicated that 62% of Norwegian consumers consider sustainability to be a primary concern when making purchasing decisions. The survey further revealed 73% of Swedes and 72% of Danes are influenced by sustainability.

compostable coffee bags

Despite the impact of Covid-19, the European specialty coffee market is forecast to continue growing through to 2026 with a compound annual growth rate of around 9%. This creates many opportunities for new business within the growth sector — and nowhere is this more true than in Scandinavia.

At MTPak Coffee, we are committed to helping specialty roasters expand their business, while maintaining sustainability goals.

We have a range of sustainable coffee packaging options, from kraft paper flat bottom pouches, to LDPE side gusset bags. All our options are either recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable, while our additional components, such as degassing valves and resealable zippers, can also be recycled.

What’s more, our environmentally friendly printing methods and low-VOC water-based inks will ensure you have a fully sustainable product, keeping you ahead of the competition.

Our inks are highly resistant to abrasion, water, and heat, making them the ideal choice for redesigning your coffee packaging to appeal to Scandinavian consumers.

Furthermore, our Education Centre can provide a wealth of information on how to boost the sustainability credentials of your business. 

For more information on sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team.

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Aidan Gant
Aidan Gant

Aidan spent his early career working in cafes alongside coffee roasters and in other hospitality positions. He owned a vegan tapas restaurant, specialty coffee bar, and live jazz venue, which he operated with his partner before closing during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 2020, he has made his living writing about coffee and the environment, and is currently a researcher and doctoral student in Creative Writing.

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