Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why is Nespresso conquering Sweden?

So last weekend we set out to buy a new coffeemaker and every store we went to we were attacked by Nespresso salespeople (and a bunch of other capsule coffee competitors) as soon as we walked through the door. Sure I never say no to free coffee (yes, even during pregnancy), and I appreciated the nice round flavor of the coffee --- but no way am I going to invest in this system for my kitchen and I am kind of shocked at the pace that Nespresso and capsule coffee has conquered the Swedish population.

Why I am surprised:

1) Environmentally unfriendly – I know there is a recycling program for the tiny capsules – I think I took home 8 different coffee pamphlets this weekend – but still, it seems awfully wasteful to use one plastic capsule EVERY time you want a cup of coffee, especially when there is a much more environmentally friendly alternative.

2) It isn’t Swedish mud coffee – It took me 5 years to build up a gut that could tolerate Swedish coffee. OK, so I am used to guzzling down American diner style coffee by the pitcher, and yes, that stuff is like making love in a canoe – but still Swedish coffee is pretty hardcore. I need at least one meal in my stomach before I can digest it without it ripping holes in my stomach. I thought this was a Swedish point of pride. I thought the idea was that you could feel the coffee grinds between your teeth. But Nespresso? It is so smooth, so easy to drink down. Was this what the Swedish people were really longing for all these years?

3) Swedes don’t drink a lot of expensive coffee – Unlike the US where people walk down the street with a 5 dollar Starbucks drink in their hands every chance they get, Swedish latte culture has been much more about socializing than being on the go with your coffee. It’s not like Swedes are saving money and not buying 3 lattes at Starbucks a day and instead having Nespresso. They are doing this instead of having cheap coffee from the pot.

I guess the only things I can think of that make Nespresso so desirable is that the coffeemakers are pretty cool looking, and you can get a pretty nice cup of coffee without a lot of work.

That said, as you can see, we did not get one. We got a nice, old fashioned coffeemaker so that we can brew our rather fancy coffee beans (when we actually have time to get to the fancy coffee store) that we grind ourselves at home. Because one of the things that creeps me out about Nespresso is that annoying little factoid I once read that we consume the most bugs in our diet through our coffee, and because I often wonder way too much about just what is in those damn capsules.

But if my business grows enough to get a little office where I occasionally meet clients, maybe I will reconsider. 


  1. I'm wondering about it too, I prefer regular swedish coffe myself. I think you answered your own question - they are working really hard to get a part of the market. Because it is a pretty good market even if it's a small country, the only country where people drink more coffe per person is Finland, with 3,5 cups a day compared to swedes 3,2 cups a day.

    A question for you: I have read, and now I am wondering if it's true, that it's common in the US to drink coffe _with_ a meal instead of after?

  2. In our household we have both a regular coffee pot and a Nespresso machine, why? I guess it's for the novelty and variety.
    But I agree with you that it feels just wrong every time I throw one of those plastic capsules in the trash. The filters and coffee grounds go in the compost so the difference is huge.

  3. @anon - didn't realize Swedes were in the top there -- in my American house I think we went thru a pot and a half a day easily. But as for drinking coffee with a meal, it is a mystery to me, too. My grandmother does it. Always has a cup of coffee with every meal. But the thought makes me rather ill. Unless, of course, the meal is diner breakfast with a tall stack of pancakes or belgian waffles and fruit and maple syrup and..... then coffee is the perfect beverage!

    Fredrik- interesting, do you end up using it often? I imagine it must be nice if you have company or on a relaxing Sunday morning, but otherwise not something I would use that often if I had two. But hard to say.

  4. Despite the quantity, Swedish coffee is unfortunately not up to the Italian standard ;-)
    And for home consumption we still prefer (we as Italians) prefer our old-fashioned coffee brewers (Moka?). I think that though you are right, it is "cool" and it is "cool" that one can provide different tastes of coffee, which is not always so easy if you are not handy enough with a traditional brewer.

  5. @AryHann haha, my aunt would beg the differ! ;)
    She has lived in rimini, italy for over 30 years now and sees herself more as an italian than a swede. There's only one thing she really misses from sweden, and that's the coffee. We send her a big package swedish coffee a couple of times a year because of that.

    Is the coffee that much different in sweden compared to the U.S ? Wasn't aware of that!

    First time poster, Long time, occasional, reader! thanks for an interesting blog!

  6. @Anon, well the world is nice because it is different :-)

  7. Indeed it is! :)

  8. The capsule machine is maybe used once a week while the coffee pot sees use twice a day. I think that when you drink a lot of coffee it's nice to be able to get some variety once in a while.

  9. First of all, the capsules are not made of plastic, they're made aluminum. Secondly, everything and I mean everything except for fruits and vegetables is in some sort of plastic or aluminum bottle or holder; so don't single out Nespresso in this regard. Lastly, Nespresso has the best coffee in the world so don't hate congratulate and drink up.