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For many UK businesses dealing with health foods and supplements, it seems almost natural that health-conscious countries with a reputation for social awareness like Sweden and Denmark might spring to mind as a potential market. That being said, there are a few more things to consider when it comes to targeting a specific country and working out if your product is likely to be accepted by retailers and consumers out there.

1. Health as a key factor in decision making

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Despite the proliferation of the Western diet high in processed carbs, fast foods and sugar across the world, it can be said that these Nordic countries are succumbing to this trend with somewhat more resistance, and Denmark boasts what is possibly the first Paleo fast-food restaurant in the world. This is not just down to an increased desire for so-called ‘real foods’, but also to a need to consider food alongside public health; with shorter summers and fewer hours of daylight per day, many foods are specially fortified (particularly with Vitamin A and D, often linked to daylight) and in 2015 the National Food Agency even proposed an expansion of mandatorily fortified foods across the country. One common indicator of healthy foods is shown by the ‘Nordic keyhole’, a label awarded to certain products based on their salt, sugar and fat content.

2. Social and environmental factors

Alongside this awareness of health in relation to food is also a keen interest on the part of many consumers to buy in a sustainable manner, with labels such as Fair Trade and the Organic Certification seeing great changes in the past few years. While in Sweden organic foods are still seen primarily as a premium product, such products do exist in lower price brackets, while an upwards trend among private Labels in Danish chains has made this a more accessible range of products which are no longer reserved for the elite.

3.  Wider cultural and demographic trends which may differ from your home market

It is also important to consider the cultural differences which surround the potential international market’s food habits. This may include the sunlight, as previously mentioned… but also the exercise habits of your target demographic and their likelihood to buy related products such as protein foods, with up to 20% of Scandinavian populations enrolled in a gym membership. Yet age is also important – in Sweden, the average pensioner has the same disposable income as a 28 year old and, with over 65s forming a quarter of the population and this figure set to increase in the future, this is certainly not a sector of society to be immediately ruled out when you’re deciding your foreign target audience.

4. Limitations on labelling and marketing

This is where the differences between the UK and Scandinavia can really help you choose which country you want to focus on. In many ways, Danish and Swedish regulations can be seen as stricter than expected, reflecting their focus on good quality food. There is EU-backed legislation on health claims, meaning that many products must advertise health benefits using their ingredients instead of direct claims – or by advertising what they do not contain, as a way to reassure consumers about their quality ingredients. This is important when adapting your marketing for another audience. Remember those bio-live yogurts advocating “probiotic bacteria”? Deemed insubstantial as a health benefit, many products now rely on previous brand recognition, serving as a barrier to entry for new products – particularly in Denmark where regulations are seen as stricter. This aside, distributors may help you with labelling requirements, so don’t let this put you off on its own!

Overall, while this is a largely health-aware population and there is far more to say on the topic building on our detailed market insights and knowledge, it’s important to remember that every country within Scandinavia has its own unique trends and every product has different needs. If you’d like to see what traction you could gain in these markets with your health food or drink product with our help then fill out the form below with your details and we’ll be in touch to discuss it further.

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