Crossing the border for a sugar fix

Crossing the border for a sugar fix
From BBC - March 12, 2018

"It's not for me. It's a present for my boyfriend in the military," a Norwegian teenager says as she fills large plastic bags with pick-and-mix sweets from a vast counter display.

We are in the Gottebiten sweetshop, just a few hundred metres inside Sweden - a shop designed almost exclusively for Norwegians to get their sugar fix for less.

This type of border shopping has taken off, not least because at the beginning of the year Norway's tax on sweets and sugary drinks rose dramatically.

All sweetened drinks, including "diet" drinks with artificial sweetener, are now taxed at about 43p/litre (1.75 pints).

It's about twice the rate of the UK's new higher-rate sugar tax, which at 24p/litre will affect only the most calorific soft drinks on the market when it is introduced in April.

And in Norway, all sweets and chocolate, chewing gum and sweet biscuits are now taxed at 3.34/kg (2lb 3oz).

That means it's surprisingly attractive to drive into Sweden, where there is no sugar tax - and goods are generally cheaper, thanks to the EU's customs arrangements.

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Gottebiten is testament to the popularity of these excursions, a 3,000-sq-m (32,000-sq-ft) temple to treats.

The pick-and-mix selection alone spans the equivalent of five supermarket aisles. And customers trail along them with plastic serving spoons, shovelling the wares into bags and buckets.

A further quarter of the shop is devoted to cans of fizzy drinks, which visitors, 95% of whom are from Norway, pick up by the crate and stack into shopping trolleys.

One customer has travelled 2,000km (1,200 miles) from Tromso, northern Norway, with her two children. She selects a few bars of Swedish milk chocolate.

Since the sugar tax increase came in, in January, "we are looking at about 10% more sales", says Mats Idbratt, operations manager of 20 Gottebiten border stores.

"But it might be more than that. It's a little early to tell.

"Right now we have two more stores in the pipeline on the border.


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