Concerning the wine and spirits trade Sweden has opted out of the free trade rules common for most other products in the EU market. The customer retail market is controlled by a state owned monopoly. On top of this it is also possible to sell products to be served by hotels, restaurants and cafés (HORECA). Beverages with an alcoholic content below 2,25% are not covered by the monopoly.
This state owned company, “Systembolaget” runs a chain of more than 400 stores containing close to 3 000 different articles of alcoholic beverages. Some of these are distributed through all stores while others are distributed through a fewer number of stores. In addition to this, some 10 000 products can be ordered through Systembolaget.
Systembolaget is run as an efficient company with the ambition to serve a broad and first class product range to the Swedish customers. Systembolaget is only a retailer and is not allowed to act as producer or importer of products. For further reference please visit www.systembolaget.se.
Systembolaget has adopted certain business principles to create a kind of free trade within the monopoly framework. The ambition is to combine a base of popular products with a certain product rotation, where slow moving products are replaced by new products, in order to keep the market open for new products and producers. New products are launched four times a year (March, June, Sptember and December) and in addition to these main launches more exclusive products may be launched in smaller volumes at other times during the year.
This goes hand-in-hand with their aim to offer an attractive and up to date assortment, with high quality products at low costs.
To select new products Systembolaget uses a tender process, tenders are specified to match the trends in the market and the expectations from customers. The idea is to keep the Swedish market very competitive and demanding as well as in line with international trends.
Systembolaget needs importers for the supply of products. The importers buying the products from producers, are responsible for the distribution to and within Sweden and for keeping goods in stock until Systembolaget calls for deliveries to their stores. The importer coordinates the tenders and offers for new products initiated by Systembolaget. A producer needs a licensed Swedish importer and cannot deal with Systembolaget directly. The business between Systembolaget and the importer is regulated by an extensive agreement.
It is the role of the importer to build an honest relationship between the producer and the buyers at Systembolaget. They are also responsible for marketing of listed products to ensure they maintain their positioning in the range.
The importer can also sell to HORECA customers, directly or through independent wholesalers.
All sales of alcoholic products are taxed based on alcohol content. The tax rates are for:
Wine, beer and cider:
0 SEK/l on products up to 2,25% vol alc.
7,58 SEK/l on products ranging between 2,25-4,5% vol alc.
11,20 SEK/l on products ranging between 4,5–7% vol alc.
15,41 SEK/l on products ranging between 7-8,5% vol alc.
21,58 SEK/l on products ranging between >8,5-15% vol alc.
45,17 SEK/l on products ranging between >15-18% vol alc.
200,56 SEK/l on products containing 40% vol alc.
The tax is paid by the importer under a certain tax regime with the Special Swedish Entity for alcohol taxes.
VAT of 25% is added and included in the consumer price.
Q: Can importers or retailers sell directly to customers?
The answer is no. Systembolaget has the monopoly to sell products to customers in Sweden, with exception of tax free stores at airports and ferries. Hotels, restaurants and cafés may serve customers.
Q: Can anyone import directly for their own consumption?
Yes, in general this is possible. You can, with certain volume restrictions, bring alcohol beverages over the boarder while travelling. You can also buy or “import” directly for your own consumption, but you are liable to pay Swedish alcohol tax on all such products.
Q: Explain how restaurants can buy and sell alcoholic beverage?
Restaurants need a permission to serve alcoholic beverages. Permissions are applied for, and given by, authorities on community level. There are about 11 000 permissions granted in Sweden. To get a permission the restaurant is required, among other things, to serve food. Restaurants can buy wine, spirits and strong beer directly from importers or via wholesalers.
Q: What type of marketing activities are allowed?
Swedish alcohol legislation and marketing legislation have strict rules for marketing of alcoholic beverages. In general a high level of moderation is required and no positive associations with drinking are allowed. There is a ban on advertising towards people below age 25, outdoor advertising and many restrictions covering all other advertising.
Q: What does the industry in Sweden do to limit the negative effects of alcohol drinking in the society?
The industry, through its industry association, fully supports and respects the political ambition to limit the damages of misuse of alcohol. A modern alcohol policy involves educating people and restriction on activities that can lead to risk behavior. The industry finances a project directed to schools called “Talk-about-Alcohol”, involving education and material distributed to schools and teachers for better understanding of the risks among young people. For more information you can visit the web pages of systembolaget.se and spritochvinleverantorsforening.se.
Q: What about CSR and sustainability?
Systembolaget has implemented a code of conduct for Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability, based on the international standard BSCI. All products are covered and we as importers help our producers look after the requirements in the code.
Please contact us for more information!