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Ikea affirms bid to ditch Swedish food brands

Swedish furniture giant Ikea said on Tuesday it has no plans to reverse a decision to stop selling a number of well-known Swedish food brands in its stores despite a barrage of complaints from angry customers.

Ikea affirms bid to ditch Swedish food brands

“The overall strategy remains in place,” Ikea spokesperson Ylva Magnusson told the Local.

“The goal is to have around 150 Ikea-branded food items for sale in our stores.”

In October, Ikea announced plans to replace its assortment of Swedish-brand eats in favour of exclusively Ikea-branded food.

The primary reason for the change, according to Magnusson, is to give Ikea more control of the food products on offer on Ikea stores in order to guarantee production and quality standards.

The move set off an angry wave of complaints from Swedes living abroad and other aficionados of famous Swedish brands such as Cloetta chocolates, Abba herring, Kalle’s caviar spread, and cookies by Göteborgskex, many of which are only available in Ikea food shops in various parts of the world.

Facebook pages protesting the decision attracted thousands of members who aired their frustration and were urged to write the company to complain.

“The world’s worst decision,” Maria Prunty, a Swede living in Nevada in the US, wrote on one of the “Only IKEA brand on food? – No thank you” Facebook page.

“At Ikea they have a sign that says bring a taste of Sweden home. This is no longer true!,” wrote New York-based Swede Thomas Noe on the “Bring REAL food back to IKEA Swedeshop” Facebook page.

Magnusson characterized as “misleading” reports in the Swedish press on Tuesday suggesting that Ikea had reversed the controversial decision, explaining that Ikea was still stocking non-Ikea brand foods as they ramped up production of their own goods.

“We’ve found we haven’t been able to roll out our own products as quickly as we would have liked, so in order to ensure that our customers still have a complete assortment of products, we’re still open to having products from external suppliers,” she said.

Magnusson added that she sympathized with customers’ ongoing concerns about Ikea’s plans to stock exclusively own-brand food items.

“It may take time to adjust, and I understand it may be difficult, but I hope that people are curious and dare to give Ikea brands a chance,” she said.

“Ikea’s own recipes are based on Swedish tastes and characteristics, so our customers will still be able to get a taste of Sweden even if the label on the outside is different.”

According to Magnusson, it may take “several months” before the transition to a complete assortment of Swedish brands is complete, calling the change “exciting”.

However, she held out the possibility that disgruntled fans of traditional Swedish food brands may still be able to affect Ikea’s future plans.

“Nothing is set in stone,” said Magnusson.

“Moving forward, what’s important is that we continue to listen to our customers.”

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The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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