Not just your favorite snack

Kvikk Lunsj, another staple of Freia’s commitment to social responsibility

Kvikk Lunsj

Image courtesy of Freia
The hats in the distance match Kvikk Lunsj colors in this vintage 1993 ad.

MICHAEL KLEINER
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

Norwegian Easter, where the tradition is for Norwegians to head to their cabins for a week, one last chance to ski. The essentials to pack: a crime novel, skis, and enough Kvikk Lunsj bars. 

“The chocolate, Solo orange soda, and an orange, those three are like the Easter triangle,” says Tina Stangnes, senior brand manager for Countlines and Smallbites at Freia in an interview from Oslo. “Those are the three things that you put in your backpack when you go on your little hike. That’s very important. Most Kvikk Lunsjes are consumed in the winter. Every Norwegian eats nine Kvikk Lunsjes a year. Five are during Easter.”

Unfortunately, because of coronavirus, this could be the second straight year not all Norwegians will be able to visit their cabins, though they are keeping their fingers crossed. Some restrictions have already been put in place. People can still enjoy the outdoors at Frognerseteren in Oslo or parks within their county.

Photo: Hulda Szacinski / public domain
Freia founder Johan Throne Holst, about 1910.

The history of one product in the Freia catalog, almost 85 years old, becoming such an icon associated with the outdoors and a holiday is fascinating. One wonders why it took Johan Throne Holst, who purchased the Freia factory in 1892, decades to develop Kvikk Lunsj after being berated by a friend for not bringing chocolate when they were lost on a hike. Holst was ahead of his time, though, in developing a worker friendly atmosphere and commitment to a quality product. It has remained that way.

You can understand the name even if you don’t know Norwegian. Its size makes it easy to store in pockets of winter coats. At the time of its 1937 launch, chocolate was seen as a source of nutrition when exercising.

“It’s always been our hiking chocolate,” said Stangnes. “In Norway, we like to take our little walks … to be out in nature. From the very start, it’s always been positioned as Norway’s hiking chocolate, which is very unique about it.”

“When Kvikk Lunsj was launched, it was positioned as providing energy and equal to an egg and two slices of bread with butter in terms of calories,” said Gina Bjerck Heitmann, brand manager Kvikk Lunsj and Freia. “You know immediately it means quick lunch. Having a quick snack, quick energy breaks. I believe that’s where the name comes from.”

Advertising through the years has been creative but always showing the outdoors, a cabin, family with skis, a backpack. The wrapping has included rules of the mountains and travel tips. During the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, 10 million Kvikk Lunsjes were sold during the 11-day festival.

By the advent of the 20th century, most of the workers at Freia were women.

Kvikk Lunsj

Image courtesy of Freia

In 1914, Freia was honored as a model company for its “technical, social, mercantile pioneering activity.”

For the 25th anniversary in 1923, Freiaparken opened. The park is almost exclusively for the employees, because Holst believed, “employees who feel valued do a better job.” It is adorned with sculptures by Gustav Vigeland. “When we’re at the office, to be able to go for a little walk during breaks is something everyone appreciates,” said Stangnes.

“That’s one of my favorite things in summer, having lunch there. It’s great, beautiful,” added Heitmann.

A dining room was decorated with Edvard Munch paintings. Freiasalen, Freia Hall, with a capacity for 700 people, opened in 1934, also with Munch paintings. Holst felt there should be a common “dining room for all employees.” 

Holst delivered a talk to the Norwegian Society of Industry, in which he claimed, “in-depth scientific study will show that individual and social freedom and job satisfaction are important factors in economic progress.” To that end, Freia was the first Norwegian business to employ a company doctor and manicurist—because workers were handling a lot of product—and institute a 48-hour workweek. 

God tur!

Image courtesy of Freia

As early as 1919, backed by his own contribution of NOK 250,000, Holst created the “A/S Freia Chocolade Fabriks Medicinske Fond (Freia Chocolate Factory Medical Fund)” for “research on the relationship between food and beverages, and people’s health.” In 1931, this time with a donation of some of his Freia shares, he established the Johan Throne Holst Fund for Nutrition Research at the University of Oslo to “study the relationship between sugar and tooth decay.” 

In 1947, a year after Holst died, his sons, Harald and Henning, provided NOK 1.1 million toward a building in his honor for nutrition research, on Blindern campus.

Holst was an honorary member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences, commander of the Order of St. Olav, served in Oslo City Council and Storting, and authored Industry and industrial problems (1914), The democratization of industrial capital (1928), and Memoirs and reflections, (1941).

Kvikk Lunsj

Image courtesy of Freia

“It made total sense that he chose to launch a product that related to Norwegian culture of love of the outdoors,” said Heitmann. 

“He was a man of the people,” said Stangnes. “He wanted to tap into what people cared about, what could bring something extra to people’s everyday life, make them smile, to create these moments for people. It’s still very much part of our positioning, maybe even stronger than ever.”

The values of sustainability and social responsibility have passed down, though owned by Mondelēz International, which oversees almost every name brand snack company in the world. Its slogan “Snacking Made Right, the right snack, for the right moment, made the right way.”

“We have [social responsibility] on all levels of our organization, and we try to implement this in every possible way from how we work with our suppliers and organizations,” said Stangnes. “How we work with palm oil in our products so it’s not only sustainable, but ethical. We’re trying to reduce the plastic in our packaging.”

Kvikk Lunsj

Image courtesy of Freia

“When you have a brand that’s linked to outdoor life, it’s important that we have this focus,” said Heitmann. “When people consume food outdoors, they forget and leave the wraps in nature. The Kvikk Lunsj wrapping is recyclable. This fall we changed the print on the inside from mountain rules to sustainability rules, tips on how to have a more sustainable outdoor life. We do what we can from our side to help. In 2019, we took it a step further and created a communication course on keeping nature clean. When we live with nature, we feel responsibility and want to showcase that.”

This article originally appeared in the March 26, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.

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