IKEA Food has grown by 30% on the back of its meatballs and the local delicacies it serve in its various iterations, such as Hyderabad Dum Biryani in India.
IKEA’s Swedish meatballs are a classic. The global furniture store sells an estimated 150 million Swedish meatballs from its cafes worldwide and the freezer case in the marketplace.
And now, you have the opportunity to dine on these delicious meatballs in its newly opened café attached to the IKEA store in New Mumbai, its second outpost in the country. The sole difference: the Indian version has chicken and vegetables, in keeping with local sentiments.
Incidentally, most large IKEA stores have a café attached to them, which are as much a destination as the store.
This is IKEA’s second store in India. When the Swedish furniture giant opened its doors to India in Hyderabad over two years ago, the store witnessed a stampede of over 40,000 people and the roads leading to the outlet were reportedly clogged. After wooing the city of Nizams, in December 2019, IKEA made its way to the city considered a twin to the Mumbai metropolis next door.
The Navi Mumbai outlet has a stringent pandemic protocol. It is mandatory to pre-book your visit on the website
Once registered, you are given with a quick response (QR) code, which you will have to show on entry to the premises. When entering the store, you are given wrist bands that permit you inside the store.
The iconic meatball with a cult-like following
The signature staple is considered comfort food and has amassed a cult-like global following. So much so that earlier last year, during the global lockdown, IKEA released the recipe for fans to emulate at home.
In case you’re wondering how the meatballs got so popular, the dish symbolises Swedish cuisine. It is accompanied by mashed potatoes, a creamy gravy and lingonberry jam. The bite-sized meatballs are comforting and quick to wash down with a beverage or by themselves.
Swedish meatballs are a succulent combination of meat, are warmly spiced, and are crisped and browned before being smothered in a creamy, savoury gravy.
The highlights on the menu range from salmon to cinnamon buns, croissant, blueberry jam and cloudberry. For India, the furniture giant created a menu customised to the local palate, replacing their signature traditional Swedish meatballs dish with chicken and vegetable balls. IKEA also serves various native dishes such as Hyderabadi Biryani, Dal Makhani and Indian bread.
Even though symbolic, the meatball is being reinvented to pander to the taste of vegetarians and vegans. About 80% of the menu in the Indian IKEA Restaurant is vegetarian, considering Indian has plenty of lacto-vegan, which in turn makes the country a member of the top sustainable countries.
Henrik Österström, Country Food Manager, IKEA India, informs us, “Since August 2020, IKEA provides plant-based meatballs in all of the European stores, made from potatoes, apples, pea protein and oats. The IKEA restaurant has been very well received in India, too. We are serving a mix of Indian and Swedish dishes, which is liked by our customers. We focus on healthy and sustainable food of good quality to a very affordable price.”
So, what is a restaurant doing within a furniture store?
Ingvar Kamprad set up IKEA in 1943 as a mail-order company and by 1958, the brand had established its first on-ground store in the southern Swedish district of Småland. The food at IKEA is a part of their shopping experience. The store layout was always larger than the conventional stores and was located on the outskirts of the cities.
The brainchild of Kamprad, IKEA began serving affordable plates of Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and lingonberry jam (among other cafe dishes) to customers in the 1960s. Shoppers spend more time indoors and consequentially, shop more.
Ikea Food is booming. The company now estimates that about 30% of visitors to its blue and yellow behemoths come solely for the food, which, in addition to its famous Swedish meatballs, includes salmon, salads and cinnamon buns. Apart from the staples, the menu features quick eats that symbolise the culinary layout of the country they are in.
For instance, the French IKEA menu offers financiers and macarons, whereas Canadian IKEA restaurant vends out poutine. The food menu is localised in every city as well. Mumbai is expected to relish more salmon than Hyderabad.
The restaurants open earlier than the store to serve breakfast to the early shoppers, with over 30% of the footfall visiting for the restaurant.
The food philosophy is simple. “Democratic design is keeping in mind the five aspects: price, sustainability, function, design and quality. When we develop the range, we try to cater for all this to make the food attractive, affordable and with minimum climate impact. All of IKEA’s food range in India is 100% locally sourced.” says Österström.
IKEA has big goals for their Indian outposts
IKEA has taken stringent measures to ensure transparency in the supply chain and the elevated standards for sourcing local produce for their kitchens. Österström reassures us, “All our suppliers must be IWAY approved, which is part of our sustainability agenda. We minimise food waste and none of it goes to the landfill. We have no food containing red meat. We serve UTZ-certified coffee (the largest program for sustainable farming of coffee and cocoa) and AMC-certified salmon (the GE salmon are a commercially competitive alternative to wild-caught salmon and fish farming of unmodified salmon). We also are on the way to implement a better chicken initiative in India. We use energy-efficient equipment and have solar panels on top of our stores, among other things.”
There will be two smaller stores in Mumbai after which IKEA heads to the city of lakes, Bengaluru, followed by the capital city. The Scandinavian furniture retailer aims to reach 100 million (10 crore) people by next year through their flagship stores, smaller stores in the city and online routes.