One third of beer consumed in Sweden is bought from outside the country’s state-run liquor store monopoly Systembolaget as consumers often cross borders or seas in search of lower prices.
Thanks to the strong Swedish krona, alcohol is now at comparably rock-bottom prices at German and Danish border shops.
Last year alcohol sales at German border shops rose by 31 percent compared to 2009, according to calculations from the Swedish Spirits & Wine Suppliers Association (Spirits & Vinleverantörföreningens – SSWS).
This also means an explosion of business for bus operators who run day trips to border towns.
“Some people even book an empty seat, they want more space for what they buy,” Mary Lamm, a travel agent with Ramkvilla Bus, told the TT news agency.
According to the association’s estimates, individual consumers brought more than 45 million litres of alcohol into Sweden from abroad last year.
The Spirits & Wine Suppliers Association admits that the calculations are made in broad terms, and point out that no one today can confirm exactly how much alcohol is admitted into Sweden.
The rise in demand at border shops has also triggered a higher volume of alcohol exported by the association’s member companies to German border shops, where a large proportion of customers are Swedes.
“Of course our members sell beer where the Swedish consumers are and that is increasingly at the border stores,” Frederick Sörbom of Sveriges Bryggerier (‘Brewers of Sweden’) told TT.
Last year Swedish brewers exported almost 43 million litres of beer to popular border stores, five million more litres than the previous year.
If people bringing alcohol or beer into Sweden can prove their claims that it is only for private use, the policies regarding imports are extremely generous, in principle unlimited.
The lax import regulations have led to the development of networks that buy booze cheap abroad and sell it for a profit back in Sweden.
Anders Tragardh, head of the border protection department in Malmö in southern Sweden, fears that the strong krona could lead to an even greater influx of smuggled alcohol.
“Yes, of course, as the product becomes cheaper, the profits become greater. It can certainly entice more people to smuggle,” he told TT.