It is better known as the $33 billion company selling assemble-it-yourself furniture, but Ikea also runs a lucrative food business. Anyone in a major metropolitan area who has shopped at an Ikea has returned home with not only DIY shelving that was missing a bolt or screw, but also a jar of its lingonberry jam — along with that toothpaste tube of salmon spread that occupies a forgotten corner of the fridge. Although food comprises only 5 percent of Ikea’s sales annually, we are still talking about a copious amount of crispbread, pasta and seafood that the retailer sells throughout the 47 nations in which it conducts business.
And it is seafood where Ikea has made a move that should nudge other retailers to follow. The company recently announced that all of the 23 species of seafood sold in its stores now only come from sources certified by the Marine Stewardship Council or Aquaculture Stewardship Council. So, whether you are dining in the cobalt blue and canary yellow Ikea café or are taking home some frozen salmon fillets, Ikea is promising products that are not only more environmentally responsible, but are produced and packaged in decent working conditions as well.
Ikea claims this shift offers a change for what it says are its 600 million customers across the world. That impressive number may be a stretch — after all, many of its customers want to hurry out of an Ikea after spending a chaotic day mired within its showrooms. Nevertheless, Ikea’s new seafood policy could send a positive message to customers in emerging markets such as Turkey, Thailand and the Middle East Gulf States, where food certification of any sort is still a novelty.
This news follows other announcements that Ikea has made this year as it has striven to become a more sustainable operation. Ikea’s Billy bookcases are only surpassed in the number of fans by its Swedish meatballs (after all, the latter are often the only reason why some people even enter an Ikea), but now vegan meatballs are available at many of the chain's cafeterias. Organic coffee is also on the company’s menu. And when it comes to Ikea’s lucrative linens business, the company says it is working to mitigate its environmental impact through its partnership with the Better Cotton Initiative. Finally, the company has evolved on lighting. Once responsible for making CFLs more affordable and accepted by the public, Ikea has phased out those light bulbs and currently sells only LEDs.
With the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimating that 90 percent of the world’s fish stocks either fully- or over-exploited, retailers have a crucial role in educating customers that they need to do their part and make more responsible food choices. Ikea’s shift proves that being sustainable can also be profitable without compromising on quality, while enhancing its overall brand reputation.
Image credit: Ikea
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media. His previous work can be found at The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. Kaye is based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.