The other day I saw a forum post where a British bloke asked whether Swedes had a "snob" supermarket like they do in the UK. He was trying to describe the Tesco phenomenon and wondered if Swedes had something similar.
That made me recall my grandmother, a die-hard Social Democrat married to an active Social Democrat, and how she only ever shopped at a place called "Konsum" back then. Konsum was "Kooperativa Förbundet", founded by consumer cooperatives in 1899, that expanded into co-operative grocery stores by the 1930s.
By the 1950s, they were at the forefront of Swedish retail trade and brought us the first "non-brand" brand in 1979. Blåvitt. (Bluewhite). The concept was "basics" at the lowest possible price negotiated so that ordinary folk could afford ordinary stuff.
Kooperativa Förbundet, the "Co-operative Union" also set out to sell clothes and household items like furniture and china, so the sister brand "Domus" operated between 1956 and 2012. That's where my grandmother would buy everything except her loved Rosenthal dinnerware and coffee sets. A sense of fairness ruled over the "Konsum", "Domus" and "Blåvitt" brands, where the ideology behind it was as important as what was in the packaging.
What a great way to brand "cheap". One didn't shop at Konsum or Domus because you were poor, you shopped there because you wanted the farmers and textile workers to get properly paid for their wares. You supported the working class by shopping there. You signaled your politics by shopping there.
I was reminded of the "supermarket class wars" again when I saw this brilliant poster from Denmark today. Irma is Denmark's version of "Tesco" or Whole foods, also known as "Whole paycheck". Irma is the fancy and expensive supermarket where you find French brand lemonade, English brand beer, and choice cuts of meat. Netto is the cheap supermarket, with off-brand items, pre-packaged chicken hearts, weird German stuff, and inexpensive milk.
They put up this billboard right next to an Irma store, the brand advertised why people choose to go to Netto. "Afford to go to Irma - go to Netto" the ad declares dryly.
The ad was created by Brandhouse ad agency in Copenhagen.