Spotlight on Spar Snarøya, Norway: Northern Europe’s most climate friendly grocery store

Spar Norway has opened Northern Europe’s most climate friendly grocery store to date. Fiona Briggs paid a visit

(This article first appeared in NACS Magazine, June 2019)

Norway is well-known for leading the field in terms of environmental conservation and sustainability. The Nordic country also takes a proactive role in steering companies towards acting in a more green and environmentally friendly manner, especially within the retail marketplace.

A recent standout example is Spar Norway. It has opened a new store in a suburb of Oslo, which is Norway’s newest example of international best practice in terms of innovative, eco-friendly solutions in retail.

Spar Snarøya features a raft of green initiatives which have combined to enable the store to cut CO2 emissions by almost 60% since opening in August 2018, the equivalent of producing 10 million plastic bags.

Spar Norway is part of the NorgesGruppen, Norway’s largest food retailer. Still privately held, NorgesGruppen operates 1,800 grocery stores under a tranche of brands, including Spar and Eurospar. It is the fifth largest company in Norway, reporting revenues of 9 billion euros in 2018.

Spar International and responsible retailing

Spar International’s Better Together strategy can be traced back to its roots when in 1932, the Spar brand was founded on the principle of joint co-operation between wholesalers and retailers. Similarly, Spar’s Responsible Retailing initiatives today are designed and executed by the various Spar partners, whom it is proud to call the Spar family. As Spar partners face different challenges across the globe, they have the power to drive their own initiatives in the communities they serve. As a global business, Spar aims to tailor its business strategy and priorities to make real and tangible changes for local communities.

Tobias Wasmuht, managing director of Spar International, said: “Spar works across 48 countries and is dedicated to sustainability in all of the markets where we have a presence. While taking a holistic view to responsible retailing, our focus is on six key areas namely health, sourcing, community, environment, supply chain and are all linked to our people. Our responsible retailing commitments and sustainability initiatives around the world are aligned with these broader goals while at the same time are tailored to community specific needs.”

Sustainable and climate neutral

NorgesGruppen’s investment in eco-friendly stores, like Spar Snarøya, is part of the group’s wider ambition to create a sustainable and climate neutral supply chain.

According to Ole Fjeldheim, CEO of Spar Norway, that is a journey which spans the entire operation and includes the installation of solar panels on the roofs of 13 warehouses operated by ASKO, Norway’s largest grocery wholesaler and part of NorgesGruppen. Today, 90,000sq m of solar panels ensure the business is self sufficient with energy across all its warehouse sites. Wind turbines are another recent investment – ASKO introduced five at its warehouse sites in 2018. ASKO’s most recent adventure are two self-driving, fully electrical ro-ro ferries that will run across the Oslo Fjord in 2024 if all goes according to plan. If realized, these ferries will help reduce an estimated 5,000 tonnes of CO2 and cut back 2 million kilometres on the road for the trucks. Enova, a public organization managing the Norwegian Energy Fund, has backed the project with 119 million kroner.

NorgesGruppen is also the first company in Norway to invest in electric Tesla trucks. Ten have been ordered and are anticipated to be delivering to Spar stores, including the branch in Snarøya, and other NorgesGruppen retail chains in 2021. The business is also investing in hydrogen trucks, smaller vehicles which are ideal for city centre deliveries; and the group is targeting that all its 600-strong truck fleet will be either electric or hydrogen by 2026. Hydrogen trucks will be deployed in areas of Norway that do not have the infrastructure for EVS.

“We are on a green journey,” states Fjeldheim. “We are motivated to invest on the retail side because of the warehouse innovations – everyone is challenging everyone in the company.”

Spar Norway

Spar Norway is flourishing. It has increased its market share from 6.7% in 2013 to 7.2% in 2018 and is the only supermarket in Norway to have enjoyed growth in that period, Fjeldheim reports. The business has achieved CPAG of 3.7% in the last five years with sales rising from €1.06bn in 2013 to €1.26bn in 2018. The performance is especially impressive set against the overall market growth of just 1.1% in 2017 and 2.5% in 2018 and the fact that Norway, with a population of 5.3m and a total of 3,900 grocery stores, has the highest number of shops per capita. Currently trading from 264 Spar stores and 29 larger Eurospar sites, the retailer added five new stores in 2018 and began online grocery ordering at 11 stores (e-commerce accounts for 3.3% of total sales in the stores that have online sales). It will open 12 new stores in 2019. Spar Norway’s workforce extends to 7,000 employees.

Spar Snarøya

Spar Snarøya is located in an affluent residential Oslo suburb, close to both the capital city and the sea and nearby the former site of Norway’s main airport where businesses, including Equinor (formerly Statoil) are rapidly expanding their operations.

“Spar Snarøya is the most environmentally friendly store in the Nordics,” says Fjeldheim. “It’s a flagship and demonstrates that we are investing for the future.”

This modern Spar Snarøya store is constructed out of solid wood with the floors and foundations made from low-carbon concrete. The windows are triple glazed to reduce the CO2 footprint and to maintain an ambient in-store temperature.

The exterior is clad in 90sq m of solar panels, which power all of the environmentally friendly LED lighting inside the store. In addition to overhead lighting, shelving displays for products including bottled soft drinks and confectionery are back lit by LED lighting to stunning effect. The feature has driven sales and is now a feature in all new Spar stores.

Excess heat from the refrigerators and freezers is also used to heat the store. The roof of the store is covered in grass to capture CO2.

Outside, there is parking for 55 vehicles on environmentally friendly asphalt and there are four charging points for both electric cars – 30% of all new cars sold in Norway in 2018 were electric and the country is targeting all electric by 2025 – and electric bicycles.

“So many new cars are electric and this is convenient for customers to charge their cars while they are shopping,” Fjeldheim says.

Spar International on Spar Snarøya

Spotlight on Spar Snarøya, Norway: Northern Europe’s most climate friendly grocery store

Speaking about the Spar Snarøya store Wasmuht said: “The Spar Snarøya store is a really inspiring example of international best practice in sustainability for all of Spar.It has combined learnings from across Spar’s extensive 48 country network, adding exciting innovations to deliver a fantastic responsible retailing solution. Its approach to sustainability, reduction in plastic and food waste, energy efficiency and nutrition mirrors many of the aspects of Spar’s responsible retailing strategy which is making a real difference to consumers and the planet.”


Inside, in the store lobby, there are collection points for recycling light bulbs and electronic items. The sight lines in this refreshingly ‘quiet’ store are extensive since there are only two pillars, located in the fresh foods department. There are doors on all chiller cabinets to reduce electricity consumption and time saving electronic shelf edge labels, which are now a feature across all Spar Norway stores.

Spar Norway is leading the charge on plastic reduction too with a target to use 20% less plastic in fruit and veg by 2020, equivalent to 100 tonnes.

Avocados, for example, are now packed on paper-based containers versus plastic and strawberries and carrots are now offered in cardboard punnets and trays versus their plastic predecessors. Further substitutions are in the pipeline, Fjeldheim reports. These include recyclable packaging for juice bottles and bagged carrots.

Within bakery, plastic windows on the paper bags for self serve bread have been removed, saving a further eight tonnes per year; while plastic straws and cutlery have each been replaced with paper and bamboo-based alternatives respectively.

Spar International on plastic reduction

On plastic reduction, Wasmuht said: “Plastic waste is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today. The Spar Snarøya store has showcased some approaches and initiatives to reduce plastic consumption. Internationally, Spar wants to play its part to address this problem and is continuously introducing innovative, environmentally friendly packaging solutions whilst also finding ways to improve recycling and waste management practices. Various initiatives launched in 2018 have centred on community engagement programmes including the introduction of sustainable bags and food-to-go packaging, and the redesigning of packaging for Spar Own Brand products.”

Spar Austria has also developed a comprehensive three pillar plastic reduction strategy based on Avoid, Reduce & Recycle. Spar Austria is committed to reducing the volume of packaging that goes into the household by omitting packaging where possible, replacing packaging with innovative solutions and replacing disposable packaging with reusable packaging. Similar to the Spar Snarøya Store, this international best practice acts a source of inspiration and learning for Spar Partners all over the world.

Food waste

Reducing food waste is also high on Spar Norway’s agenda and visible at the Snarøya store. The retailer has introduced smaller sized loaves, for example, to cater for smaller households: 50% of the population in Oslo are living by themselves.

Further, one hour before closing time, all fresh bread prices are slashed by 50%. This tactic alone has saved wasting 500,000 units of bread per year for Spar Norway. It has subsequently been deployed within the fresh foods department two hours before closing.

Spar Norway retailers, including Spar Snarøya, are also implementing NorgesGruppen’s NGFLYT tool for automatic orders and operations support. It helps stores to place the right orders and reduce food waste. According to Fjeldheim, a new function is also being piloted, which will alert stores when a product is approaching its expiry date, so that retailers can reduce the price, or take it off the shelves.

Combined these initiatives have helped Spar Norway reduced food waste by 25% between 2015 and 2017 but the goal is to continue to chip away at wastage, Fjeldheim reports. To assist in the process, all Spar Norway’s 7,000 employees have been trained in food wastage and innovatively via a simulation game, which puts staff within ‘virtual stores’ with various scenarios and an opportunity to collect points if they reduce food waste.

Fjeldheim reports this technology has now been adopted as best practice by Spar International and has also been extended to other training modules including customer service, basic operations and the checkout zone.

Spar International on food waste

Managing food waste is critical to sustainable retailing and Spar Partners all over the world are developing innovative solutions to address this problem. Spar Hungary has rolled out a campaign to educate shoppers about food waste, Spar Belgium Lambrechts run an online tool called – ‘Save the Leftovers’ – which enables shoppers to find meal solutions and recipes using food they have already rather than wasting it and Spar Belgium Colruyt are strong advocates of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which includes food waste.

Healthy lifestyles

From a product point of view Spar Snarøya enjoys strong sales of eco lines, which are appreciated by its affluent and health conscious customer base.

Vegetarianism is gaining ground, as in other global markets, with a 36% increase in sales at Spar Norway from 2017 to 2018.

The consumer appetite for health and well being chimes with Spar Norway’s own goals for a healthier lifestyle for Norwegian customers. Fjeldheim reports the business has 2020 targets to increase sales of fruit and veg, fish and seafood and full grain bread and similar targets to decrease levels of salt, sugar and saturated fats. “We are changing our recipes and our own brand recipes and we report on what we have achieved – whether we are on target or better, not on target but moving in the right direction or not on target at all,” he says. As a result, the business now sells more light or diet sodas than regular products, he reveals.

Spar International on health and nutrition

Health and nutrition and are key priorities for Spar. It is a strong believer in the need to provide consumers with good quality products and the relevant nutritional information to ensure a balanced, healthy diet. Its focus on nutrition further complements the Spar initiatives targeted at exercise, promoting a healthy lifestyle and fighting malnutrition.

Wasmuht said: “Spar takes a multifaceted approach to promoting health and wellbeing amongst our customers all over the world. We have a wide offering of organic and natural products and have made good progress in the reformulation of products with a specific focus on the removal and reduction of salt, sugar and palm-oil in many markets.

“Our Rural Hub project in Spar South Africa works with local farmers to grow healthy produce which is sold in local Spar stores. To complement this activity, we run multi-channel campaigns to raise awareness of the benefits of healthy eating, educating and engaging with consumers including those living in rural communities about nutrition.

“Promoting a healthy and active lifestyle is an integral part of our Responsible Retailing strategy and Spar has a number of significant sporting sponsorships across the 48 countries we operate in. From the Spar Budapest Marathon Festival, the Slovenian Basketball Federation, the Spar FAI Primary School 5s Programme five aside tournament in Ireland, Spar Women Grand Prix race in South Africa and our long-term sponsorship of European Athletics, Spar actively encourages wellness in all of the markets it operates in.”

Environmental funds

The store includes a post office and has introduced self checkouts alongside manned tills. “It’s brand new in Norway and our customers are just getting used to it,” Fjeldheim explains.

Reusable shoppers can be purchased at the checkout along with paper carrier bags, printed with the Spar logo (20 Euro cents) and plastic bags (17 Euro cents), while bags for recycling food waste at home are given away free of charge. NorgesGruppen also contributes to the Norwegian Retailers’ Environmental Fund, which collates charges made for plastic bags – half of one krone for every bag sold – and then uses the proceeds to fund environmental projects.

There are also in-store units for recycling plastic bottles and carrier bags with an option to donate the incentive received to the Red Cross. Fjeldheim reports Spar Norway has raised €1m for the humanitarian organisation to date and that half of the sum has been given to the branches of the Red Cross at local level.

Another NorgesGruppen wide initiative is an environmental fund –€800.000 a year – for employees who can apply to get funding on environmental friendly actions that they personally make to help decrease energy and CO2 emissions; be that purchasing an electric car or electric bike or push bike or implementing energy efficiency measures within their own homes or prioritizing public transportation.

There’s no stopping Spar Norway it seems. Fjeldheim reports that the company has invested €150m in the business since 2013 and that all stores were ‘reinvented’ by the end of 2018.

Spar Snarøya is the current flagship but convenience retailers looking for sustainable and environment-friendly solutions and inspiration should keep a very close eye on Spar Norway and its NorgesGruppen parent.

(This article first appeared in NACS Magazine, June 2019)