In Norway, the “harryhandel” phenomenon – travelling across the border to shop and take advantage of lower prices in Sweden – has a long tradition.
However, the recent spike in food prices in Sweden is reversing this trend, and Swedes are heading to Norway, according to the finance section of the Swedish newspaper Expressen.
In Norway, the annual price increase for food and non-alcoholic beverages fell from 12 to 8.8 percent in February. This is significantly lower than the price increase in neighbouring countries.
In Sweden, the annual price increase for food during the same period ended up at 21.6 percent, which has led to more Swedes going to Norway to buy cheaper food.
READ MORE: Why are food prices in Sweden going up so much more than elsewhere?
Furthermore, the Norwegian krone has weakened considerably against the Swedish krona. Between now and February last year, the Norwegian krone is down seven percent against Sweden’s krona.
Bananas, broccoli, red peppers, carrots, oranges, muesli, and diapers, are among the products that are now cheaper in Norway than they are in Sweden, according to Expressen.
A manager of a Rema 1000 supermarket close to the Swedish border told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK that dairy products and Norwegian seafood were popular with Swedish shoppers crossing the border.
What caused the price difference?
There are several reasons why Swedish food prices have risen more than Norwegian ones.
Norwegian customs duties on agricultural products lead to Norway being more shielded from international price fluctuations on products such as cheese and milk.
Typically, this has meant that Norway has had higher prices for food due to less competition, but now this can help keep prices lower for specific products in Norway.
Furthermore, competition between grocery chains is also a potential contributor to price development.
The second largest grocery chain in Norway, Kiwi, chose not to raise prices in February. This forced both Coop Extra and Rema 1000 to follow suit. Supermarkets in Norway raise prices wholesale twice a year, once in February and once more in July.
Meanwhile, food prices in Sweden have seen their biggest spike since the 1950s. Prices of eggs, dairy products, and fats have risen more than 30 percent. Sugar has risen by just under 50 percent, and cauliflower is around 80 percent pricier than a year ago.
A lack of competition among Swedish supermarkets and an increase in the cost of importing goods are both considered to be factors behind the price hikes.
Shopping in Sweden is still cheaper overall
With these recent price developments, some may ask whether shopping trips from Norway to Sweden may be a thing of the past.
Overall, it is probably still cheaper for Swedes and Norwegians close to the border to shop in Sweden.
However, shoppers need to be more attentive, as not everything is cheaper in Sweden anymore – something which used to be the case just a year ago.
“Food is probably not cheaper in Norway, but the increase in food prices has been significantly lower in Norway than in Sweden over the past year,” Bendik Solum Whist, head of the supermarket and grocery sector at Virke, a trade industry organisation, told NRK.