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Swedish coffee to flood US market

The Swedish coffee brand Gevalia will be available for purchase in supermarkets, mass merchandisers and other retail outlets across the US by the end of the summer, Kraft Foods Inc. announced in a press release Friday.

Swedish coffee to flood US market

Kraft Foods has had a partnership with Starbucks, and had sold that popular brand of coffee as their high-end coffee product for years. However the distribution pact between the two companies was dissolved March 1, the Wall Street Journal reports. Kraft and Starbucks are still in arbitration to settle the dispute.

Now Kraft has chosen Gevalia. The brand will be available to more than 20,000 retailers throughout the U.S.

Gevalia, a nearly $400 million global brand, has a strong following in the U.S. where consumers can purchase the coffee online.

“Gevalia is known and loved by millions who’ve purchased it online because it delivers on its promise of rich, smooth taste that’s never bitter,” said Domenic Borrelli, Vice President of U.S. Coffee, in the press release.

“We’re telling retailers the good news now. And, we’re confident the convenience of being able to purchase Gevalia in stores will attract and delight an entirely new audience of discriminating coffee lovers.”

Kraft Foods has a $5 billion global coffee business, which includes the well-known French brand Carte Noire and the German brand Jacobs.

In the press release, Kraft Foods said Swedish citizens drink more coffee than citizens in almost any other country, adding that Gevalia is the number one Swedish brand. They even touted that Gevalia has the honor of being an official coffee of the Swedish Royal Court.

Ten Gevalia products will be sold in the first stage, and Kraft says they will “aggressively support the Gevalia retail expansion in August”.

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#AdventCalendar: Why Sweden used to stockpile coffee in case of crisis

Each day of December up until Christmas Eve, The Local is sharing the story behind a surprising fact about Sweden as part of our own Advent calendar.

#AdventCalendar: Why Sweden used to stockpile coffee in case of crisis
How soon would Sweden stop functioning without a morning cup of coffee? Photo: Henrik Montgomery/Scanpix/TT

It's no secret that Swedes love their caffeine. They drink more coffee than almost any other nationality and have a booming cafe industry. 

And up until the 1990s, they went as far as stockpiling coffee in huge warehouses, so that even in the event of an unforeseen crisis, no person in Sweden would need to forego fika. 

Even though the country hasn't been at war for over 200 years, authorities do their best to ensure that processes are in place to help things run smoothly in the event of an emergency, whether war or a natural disaster. 

And experience from the Second World War, when rations were imposed on many foodstuffs including coffee, showed that keeping the population caffeinated would be a good starting point if the government wanted to keep morale high.

Coffee rationing began in 1940, the first to be introduced, and stayed in place longer than any other food ration in Sweden, until 1951. So up until the 1990s, around 200 food warehouses for times of crisis stored long-lasting foodstuffs such as beans, pulses, rice and sugar.

One warehouse in Lenhovda, Småland, housed 330 tonnes of coffee – enough to brew 100 million cups, should the need arise. It was shut down in 2001, along with most similar storage spots, after the Cold War ended.

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These days, the food stored in supermarket warehouses should be sufficient to sustain the country for between one and two weeks. That's quite a difference from neighbouring Finland, where enough food is stockpiled to keep people going for several months.

Historically, Sweden has had a troubled relationship with coffee, which at several points in history was banned due to fears of its impact on health. In fact, in the 18th century some economists argued that the drink was even harmful to the economy, and indulging was “immorally wasteful”. Naturally, the population didn't take this lying down, but continued to risk prison sentences by continuing to drink the warming beverage. 

Coffee may be no longer officially stockpiled, but it is one of the items that the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) advises individuals to keep as part of their own emergency preparedness kits.

Sweden isn't the only country that took such measures. Switzerland also stockpiled coffee for decades until the practice was abolished only this year, after the government decreed the beverage was “not essential for human life”.

We'll agree to disagree on that point.

Each day until Christmas Eve, The Local is looking at the story behind one surprising fact about Sweden, as agreed by our readers. Sign up below to get an email notification when there's a new article (if you would like to sign up but can't see the box below, drop us an email at [email protected]).

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