Arcus and Vinmonopolet
Norway's state-owned alcohol monopoly, Vinmonopolet, was established in 1922, at a time when wines and fortified wines could be legally sold, but the sale of spirits was banned.
Local municipal sales outlets were taken over by the new entity, which also began to acquire private wine merchants. Later in the 1920s all of Norway’s commercial distilleries were also acquired. Then, when prohibition ended in 1927, Vinmonopolet assumed full responsibility for the production of all Norwegian spirits.
Further centralisation soon followed. In 1928, for example, a new facility for distilling rectified spirit was established in Hamar, 125km north of Oslo, to produce the raw spirits that had previously been bought from any stills that remained in private hands. And, in 1933 a new state-of-the-art production facility was commissioned at Hasle in Oslo, which meant that the production of aquavit and other branded spirits could also be centralised.
After Word War II, the production of spirits in Norway quickly rebounded and, throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the output continued to grow. But, by the 1970s, production began to slow, due largely to a new-found interest in wine among Norwegian consumers – an interest that has been developing for around 40 years.
In 1996, as Norway joined the European Free Trade Area, it became necessary for Vinmonopolet to comply with the new commercial and competitive principles, and to devolve its production, importation and distribution activities.
On New Year’s Day in 1966, Arcus was therefore established as a state-owned enterprise, which took responsibility for the production, import and distribution of wine and spirits, whereas Vinmonopolet continued as a pure retail outlet.
Then, from the start of 2005, the old monopoly arrangements that still covered production and importation were completely repealed – bringing full commercial competition to these aspects of the Norwegian wine and spirits sector.