Paying the price for protecting consumption: the business history of the coffee trade in Sweden during WWII

Kerstins Rum Session 7: History of consumption organized by Fia Sundevall


Nikolas Glover


On the eve of WWII coffee consumption in Sweden was described as among the world’s highest per capita. One of the most widely and publicly commented government policies during the war was therefore the combination of regulations aimed at equitably sustaining affordable consumption of the drink through price controls, rationing, surrogates and import quotas. Despite the many renditions of coffee coupons and surrogate products in popular accounts of wartime Swedish society, the upheaval created by the dramatic introduction of state interventions in the coffee sector has not been examined from a business history perspective. This paper uses archival sources and trade publications to show how distribution, production and consumption of coffee completely changed in just a couple of years, and how businesses competed while also adapting and contesting these challenges.


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