The distribution of alcoholic beverages in the Scandinavian markets is only possible in the state monopoly’s specialty stores and gastronomy. Concealed Wines helps producers and suppliers understand the monopoly system in Sweden, Norway and Finland and supports them on their journey to sell their products there. Here you can find a precise explanation of how the monopoly system in Sweden works.

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About us

Concealed Wines is an established wine, beer, and spirits importer within Sweden, Finland, and Norway. Our company works with superb producers worldwide, supplying our markets with an excellent range of wine, beer, and spirit products. Based on volumes, our priority clients are the three state monopolies of Systembolaget in Sweden, ALKO in Finland, and Vinmonopolet in Norway. An important activity apart from off-trade distribution is selling directly to restaurants. Today, Concealed Wines sells in restaurants and bars throughout Sweden. More about our organisation on about us section.

The monopoly system in Sweden – Systembolaget

Before 1995, Systembolaget was responsible for all aspects of the monopoly of alcoholic beverages in Sweden above 2,25 vol. %. They dealt with the import, export, retailing, production, and distribution of all alcoholic drinks, excluding beer. Those with a license could produce beer.

The monopoly was abolished in all aspects except retailing in 1995. Since the monopoly still controls retail sales, the general Swedish consumer has to rely on Systembolaget stores to purchase alcoholic beverages. The retailing monopoly also restricts importers from carrying out any marketing campaigns within the stores.

Facts about Systembolaget retail stores:

  • Roughly 400 stores and 800 distribution facilities belong to the monopoly system in Sweden
  • Opening hours vary, but generally, most stores are open from 10.00 to 18.00 Monday through Friday and 10.00 to 15.00 on Saturdays
  • Legal drinking age is 18, but, you must be at least 20 years old to buy alcoholic beverages from any Systembolaget retail store
  • Customers that are clearly under the influence of any intoxication will be denied the purchase of alcohol.
  • If a person tries to buy on behalf of minors, he or she will also be rejected.

Systembolaget does not have a central stock for all their products. In most cases, they place their orders through the importers. Our company has our central warehouse from which we supply directly to their stores regularly, sometimes daily. Our company covers the logistic cost of delivering products on demand.

Systembolaget- Import and launch strategies

The general strategy of Systembolaget is to introduce both temporary listings and long-standing products for a continuous and varied assortment that provides consumers with a wide variety of products for all taste preferences. The monopoly system has a central headquarters where all import decisions and launch strategies are made, decision-making does not happen at the store level within individual stores. Systembolaget provides a launch strategy twice a year, which gives importers and producers a better idea about the demand and the types and styles of products they are interested in purchasing for the season.

Purchase officers at Systembolaget send this information to the importers specifying what they are looking for in any given product. In addition to the main launch strategies, all importers receive a more detailed request for product information in the form of tenders. Our company works with wine, beer, and spirit producers worldwide to meet the requirements of launch strategies and tenders. All tender requests are introduced on our website and regularly updated by our team for your perusal and convenience.

There are two stages for tenders, “upcoming” tenders, where partial information for the tender is available and the submission deadlines are not yet finalized, and “current” tenders, where Systembolaget has released all relevant information and the final deadline for submission has been finalized. Be aware that not all information is available for upcoming tenders but once tenders become current, deadlines and requirements are finalized and are quite precise.

Tender requests are generally released well in advance of the requested date for the desired product. We submit written offers to Systembolaget after we have received all the information from interested producers. Systembolaget then approves the offer and asks for samples to taste from the producers with the most exciting products after all written offers are considered.

Temporary products are purchased as specified in the requested quantity. These requests are generally not introduced again unless there is a new general request for the same product. Another category of listings for products is “one time buy” introductions. These listings are purchased and launched as per market demand, often several times throughout the year. The main aim of these listings is to become part of the main assortment, therefore, one time buy introductions should sell well to be considered for a permanent listing.

The tasting procedure in the monopoly system

Systembolaget provides a reference number for each tender request to ensure smooth communication of the application. Written product information is matched to the tender reference number specified in the request by style, variety, or type. All products are then tasted blindly, with no product information attached to the sample to fulfill an impartial selection process.

The results of product scores for each submission are then sent to the importer after each tasting. This process is a bit time consuming but effective for an unbiased product selection. Generally, it may take four to six weeks after the submission date to receive the results. Our off-trade team will send the results to suppliers via email.

Submission dates for written offers and sample requests are fixed, and any offer or sample that is not delivered on time to Systembolaget will automatically be rejected.

The on-trade market in Sweden

The monopoly system does not control the on-trade market. Therefore, any licensed importer is free to sell and distribute alcoholic beverages to restaurants or HoReCa without any involvement of Systembolaget.

In the on-trade market, beer consumption far exceeds wine or spirits consumption, as the total market share of wine on the alcohol market amounts to approximately 15 %. Concealed Wines has the license to sell wines in HoReCa channels.

To get more information on our HoReCa distribution, click here

Questions and Answers

What is Concealed Wines?

Concealed Wines is a Swedish wine importer that also imports beer and spirits. Concealed Wines works with the monopoly systems of Sweden, Finland and Norway.

Why does a producer or supplier need an importer to work with the monopoly system in Sweden?

The Systembolaget stores do not have a central warehouse. That means the products need to be delivered on demand from the central warehouse of an importer like Concealed Wines as soon as the monopoly places an order. The cost of logistics and delivery is covered by Concealed Wines.

What is the difference between “upcoming” and “current” tenders?

Upcoming tenders are published well in advance before the planned launch date with only few details about the product and no specific submission deadlines. It is not possible to apply for it at this stage. The final deadlines and very precise requirements are published on the start date of the tender, when it becomes a current tender. You can see all current and upcoming tenders devided by country on our website

How does the monopoly system choose the winner of a tender?

After applying for a tender the producer or supplier will be asked to send a sample of their product. All samples will be tasted blindly by Systembolaget for an unbiased decision based on how well the product matches the tender requirements.

Is Concealed Wines only working in the off-trade section in Sweden?

No, Concealed Wines works in both the off-trade and the on-trade market in Sweden. The on-trade sector in Sweden is not managed by the monopoly system. Concealed Wines also has a license to distribute wine to the Swedish HoReCa channel.