Swedes Abroad Mourn… Posted by on Oct 18, 2011 in Culture

It’s been rumored for months now. Hushed whispers in the Swedish-American community. Disgust. Fear. Sadness. It’s been a time of uncertainty.  Swedes around the world have been stocking up on the essentials. And by Swedes everywhere I mean my dad. And by essentials I mean Kalles Kaviar.  IKEA has decided to discontinue their sale of name-brand Swedish products like Kalles Kaviar.  Instead, they will only be selling IKEA brand Swedish staples. That means no more Abba sil. No more Daim. No more Bilar. And worst of all, no more Kalles.

I love IKEA. Unashamedly. There are few pieces of furniture in my apartment that are not from IKEA. It’s perfect really. I can buy them cheap. Live a student’s lifestyle on them, and replace them in two years’ time. Just like IKEA intended.  But this latest move stings a little bit.

We’ve written about Swedishness Abroad and how IKEA helps to maintain some semblance of connection with Sweden.  Jennie even wrote about what kind of food items you need to buy for that Swedish nostalgia, all the while noting the slow descent into solely IKEA brand Swedish foods in How to Buy Swedish Food Abroad. But now it is official. No more.

From a business standpoint, this makes sense. IKEA wants to have more control over the products they sell. Plus, chances are they’ll be able to pull in a few extra kronor with this move.  That doesn’t mean that the products won’t be missed.  There is a sense of nostalgia that comes with opening a bag of Bilar and hoping that they are just the right level of stale.  Or of flipping the cap over on a tube of Kalles and popping it open.  Or of chewing your way around the chocolate-y center of a Ballerina cookie.

Of course, Swedish brands do not define Swedish identity. Swedish identity is constantly evolving. It is not a static idea that is dependent on some sort of Nordic ideal; instead ideas are constantly being imported from and exported to different countries. Just as Swedes pepper their language with English loan words, Americans pepper their homes with Swedish design. It’s a cultural exchange that gives excitement to living in an international setting.  As Swedes living abroad know, Swedishness is not defined by a border on a map. Or words on a page. Or even the brands at IKEA.

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About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.


  1. fikafikafika:

    This is very sad! I quite like Kalles. We don’t even have IKEA in my country but I stock up on those non-IKEA Swedish food staples whenever I am near an IKEA (which is rare).

  2. Rachel:

    No we are not defined bby borders on a map….but many of us really like the Swedish food s we can purchase at IKEA, sill, daim lingonberries, swedish crisp bread….many americans also are drawn to that ideal…the foods in particular are healthy…something that americans are actually catching on to…I for one am Swedish American and will sorely miss this….a REALLY BAD move on IKEAs part. getting rid of the food iin IKEA ….they will lose sales and customers.

  3. Natasza:

    I think that the book about nazi connections of IKEA owner is more of a problem than discontinuing the sale of food at IKEA stores. But maybe it’s just me.

  4. Michael Sandström:

    For those who cannot manage without the Swedish food and candy I have to advise you to visit our webshop, Butik Hemlängtan

    Of course, not the same prices as IKEA, but an alternative.

  5. Annika:

    I am still mourning a year later and wishing I would of stocked up on my favorites. Bilar, Marabou, Siljans knäckerbröd, caradamon biscuits, great prices on Annas pepparkakor, yellow peas to make soup with lars mustard. How sad!! Guess I will be shopping on the Internet more. Tomorrow i will be using the last of my pearl sugar to make my Mormor’s ring cookies. May even make some pancakes too. With 4 boys in the house, our food disappears way too fast.

  6. John Blackham:

    KALLES IS BACK… at IKEA in Minneapolis. In stock now. Ummm just enjoying my first Kalles on Leksands for weeks. Next on to the more exotic kaviar concoctions…

  7. Marcus Cederström:

    Thanks for the update, John