Strong Icelandic demand for US FMCG products

Strong Icelandic demand for US FMCG products

The distribution of fast-moving consumer goods in Iceland is dominated by about five players, one of which is among the nation’s oldest and most successful family owned businesses. Named after the year it was founded, 1912 was established by two individuals who traded Icelandic fish for Danish products. By 1945, the company was importing foods from international partners like General Mills and, today, it is a highly efficient management company with three pillars of operation. 

The first is Nathan & Olsen, which imports major grocery and beauty brands into Iceland and sells them into the retail trade, says Ari Fenger, CEO of 1912 and the fourth generation of his family to lead the company: “The second is Ekran, which supplies the food service industry. It acts as a total solution to chefs in Iceland and serves them with around 4,000 unique products. The third pillar is Emmessís, an ice cream manufacturer with a 61-year history in the Icelandic market that we acquired in 2019.”

Fenger has been at the helm of 1912 for 15 years, during which time the company has tripled its revenues and made a number of other strategic acquisitions. He reveals the keys to success in his business: “You must have a passion for what you do, it’s important to have good people on hand who can help you and your company grow, and to have the right partners. We are proud to be working with the world’s leading FMCG companies and that gives us competitiveness.” 

Other factors include 1912’s cutting-edge information-technology systems, its infrastructure and a company-wide ambition to continuously develop and improve. “We are always adapting to market needs and trying to figure out new ways to grow and give better service to our customers. Trends happen fast in this industry and we are competing against warehouses in the UK and Scandinavia; if we can’t offer the right prices to Icelandic retailers, they will buy the same brand from somewhere else,” Fenger explains.  

In addition to being CEO of 1912, Fenger is chair of the Iceland Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the American-Icelandic Chamber of Commerce, making him the ideal person to comment on trade and investment opportunities for US firms in the Nordic nation: “There is strong demand and a very positive attitude in Iceland toward US products. Iceland is also a very interesting market for investors. We have a healthy economy, skilled workforce, green energy and there are so many interesting things going on here. I’m sure that if readers are looking for investment opportunities in a growing, sustainable economy, Iceland is a place worth looking into.”