I left the organic supermarket and continued on to do my own groceries for the day where my grocery dollars would go a much longer way. I hopped on the metro and headed down south.
The Organic Supermarket, Paradiset
The entrepreneurs from Paradiset were clearly doing roaring business with their organic supermarket concept, as were the established supermarkets (such as ICA, Hemkop and Coop) and the low-cost supermarkets (such as Lidl and Netto). But by any standards, the prices at these places were merely cheaper but no where near cheap. Not when compared to where I was going to.
My destination was a small borough in southern Stockholm with a reputation for being immigrant heavy, in particular heavy for immigrants from the middle east. Skärholmen borough was one of the districts that was part of the Million Programme – a successful housing scheme involving a government subsidies to real estate firms designed to build enough housing for a million dwellings within a decade.
It is today a district that with a strong migrant influence, – particularly from Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Because many of the individuals who reside here have less economic means than the residents of the more hip and cool parts of town, the groceries sold in the large supermarkets add to the burden of daily life.
There is also the added factor that many of the residents here are muslim, and the supermarkets in the area do not supply halal meat. Halal meat is meat that is slaughtered according to ethical rules described in the Quran which requires two parts to the meat – that the animal is halal and tayyib. Tayyib means that the animal was raised in a wholesome fashion and treated humanely as a life, Halal means that the animal was slaughtered lawfully (with minimum pain). Done properly it is a humane to the animal (since the animals 1) cannot see another animal die, 2) are killed instantly), although this process in Europe has an element of controversy.
Back to the Halal issue. Because the majority of Sweden is not Muslim or nominally so (being born with a Muslim name, and being a practicing Muslim are two different things. The same for people of any religion), estimates put the serious practicing Muslim population in Sweden at between 25,000-100,000 in a country of around 10 million people, there is no real large incentive for the supermarkets to specially supply Halal meats for a small, almost insignificant market (i.e. supplying halal food, all the sourcing efforts build in does not move the bottom line much but merely adds more effort) and so a demand for local grocers arose to help these people buy their meats.
Hence the rise of may small local groceries who serve as one stop shops that sell everything to customers, from toiletries, to fruits, from meats to vegetables.
Their one unique selling point is the halal meat they provide but because their customer base earns less on average that average Swedish society, the prices have to also be pitched at a level these customers can afford. Other foreigners also become part of the client pool, I go there for the fresh vegetables and fruits.
How much cheaper, are these foods you ask that they make a special trip worth it? Double the products at half the price.
By targeting a market the supermarkets never went for, these halal supermarkets have circumvented competition from the big boys all together. Now, while the way Paradiset and the Halal Supermarkets a way, these stores are not too different in the broad strategy when facing the massive conglomerates of grocery in Sweden – find a niche and target that niche.
I don’t know what the future will hold for both the organic supermarket and the halal supermarket, I just know where to get my fruits and vegetables cheap.
ON THE MAP