Gothenborg and Helsingborg - the Rotterdams of Sweden

With three main cities within a radius of no more than 500 km, and since the Baltic Sea does not freeze over, even in the extreme cold, the ports of Gothenborg and Helsingborg remain ice-free year round. It is no wonder the two largest harbours in Sweden are located at these cities.

The port of Helsingborg, the country's second harbour, processes about 280,000 TUE sea freight, with an additional 170,000 TUE land freight yearly There are no exact figures for the port of Gothenborg, but it claims that 60% of Swedish container transport goes via this city's harbour. That number is divided equally between imports and exports.

In the same way that there are many fruit and vegetable businesses clumped in the area around Rotterdam, Swedish importers can also be found near these two cities. Large and small importers can be found, to the east of Helsingborg, within a kilometre from each other. Although the number of players is limited, one importer from Helsingborg sites the competition as its largest threat. Many of the companies in this sector are foreign-owned. Everfresh is, for example, a subsidiary of Total Produce.

Retail is concentrated
There is no room for sales offices from Southern Hemisphere countries, explain one of the importers. "It is a small market of 10 million consumers", he explains. In addition, the retail sector is concentrated. ICA is the biggest player with a market share of just more than 50%. Other big players are Coop and Axfood. Of the internationally known discounters, only Lidl can be found in Sweden. This chain store caused a major shift in other markets. The first signs of a price war are visible in the USA since this German supermarket chain landed there last year. However, its effect in Sweden has been limited. "Lidl has 170 branches and are making money. They are doing quite well", says the importer. Yet, there is no possibility of a price war, despite the high prices of fruit and vegetables in the supermarket. "I have even heard someone saying that we have supermarkets that are big enough for a population of 50 million", says the importer. "The supermarkets also have long shopping hours. This costs a lot of money."
In addition to the supermarkets, the catering industry is a growing market. This group represents an important market for the importer. The market is also shifting in the catering sector. About 15 - 20% of the menu price gets used for food stuffs. Of this, about half is spent on meat. One catering supplier, who specialises in fruit and vegetables from Gothenborg says the price of meat has climbed over the past few years. This means there is more and more space for vegetables on the plate.

Shortage of personnel
The Swedish spend a lot of money on restaurant dining. "In Stockholm, they spend 51% of their food expenditure on eating out", estimates the wholesaler. In Gothenborg, this stands at 16%. This company delivers to restaurants in the Gothenborg region. Their biggest challenge is finding enough staff.

Workers from other European countries only stand a chance of employment if they understand Swedish. "Drivers are the business cards of our company. They come into contact with the chefs", he explains. This language barrier is then insurmountable because the driver who delivers the orders also receives information for the sales department.

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