I have always loved IKEA.
There, I’ve admitted it.
For a long time, there weren’t any IKEA stores in the San Francisco Bay Area but they finally built one in Oakland some years ago. Going to IKEA was a shopping adventure and I always found something I could not live without. Plus, I got to fill up on meatballs, lingon, and fresh potatoes, dreaming of the next time I would be able to visit Sweden.
And since this is a work blog, I don’t mind saying that I’ve done a lot of work from home at my various IKEA desks. And as I posted in an earlier blog, even my Swedish workplace buys some of its desks at IKEA.
When I took Swedish lessons in Berkeley, I had a reader that had an article about the history of IKEA. It was there that I learned the name ”IKEA” is a made-up word composed from the initials of the founder’s name, Ingvar Kamprad, the farm where he grew up (Elmtaryd), and his home parish (Agunnaryd, in Småland, Southern Sweden).
I was surprised to see that although the first IKEA opened in Älmhult, Småland in 1953, it wasn’t until 1985 that an IKEA opened in the United States.
As I mentioned, my family enjoyed eating at the café in IKEA in Oakland and when they started selling food you could take home, we happily started doing that. We bought jars of lingon, frozen meatballs, gravy, and sliced potatoes with cheese (not unlike Janssons frestelse (“Jansson’s temptation”)—a traditional Swedish potato dish.)
One day we were disappointed to find that the fresh, small potatoes in the restaurant had become mashed potatoes and that IKEA had pulled the products we liked best from its food department. It turns out that we weren’t the only ones who were disappointed.
According to an article in Svenska Dagbladet, (article in Swedish) Ikea decided in the Fall of 2011 to sell predominantly its own brand of food. They planned to offer a range of food, approximately 150 products, but for unclear reasons, it hasn’t been working out and now IKEA is considering adding back in their previous suppliers—at least for the time being. (IKEA says that they are interested in customer feedback but that that is not the reason they are adding back in products.)
IKEA previously sold well-known food brands and when they stopped, many shoppers were unhappy. On the internet, protests were posted on blogs and groups formed on Facebook. Trade associations protested that IKEA is an important “window” around the world for Swedish food producers.
I always assumed that Swedes didn’t really shop at IKEA, that it was considered too cheap and low quality. I assumed that the other IKEA shoppers I saw in Sweden were mostly students and tourists. I still go to IKEA today even though I now live in Sweden and you know what, I think a lot of Swedes do shop there. The things you learn!