Tex-Mex cuisine is an American cuisine that mixes food influences from Texas and Mexico. Tortillas, fajitas, nachos and tacos are commonly used in Tex-Mex cuisine. In Scandinavia, the most common tex-mex dishes are tacos and nachos. The tacos usually consist of a soft or hard tortilla tube or shell, fried minced meat, sliced vegetables, grated cheese and sauces such as sour cream, taco sauce, salsa, cheese sauce and guacamole. In Scandinavia, instead of the Taco Tuesday tradition that is quite popular elsewhere, Scandinavians have their very own Taco Friday tradition instead. As most of you know, Fredagsmys (Cozy Friday) is a very important Swedish tradition, impossible not to love. On Friday nights it’s very common for Swedish people to stay home, watch TV, eat crisps, candy and other snacks. But there is another thing that has become just as important on Cozy Friday as the crisps- the tacos! This dinner choice is so common that, for most Swedes, and Norwegians too, the so-called Cozy Friday is also known as Tacofredag (Taco Friday). But the road to the dinner table has been anything but straightforward for the pre-packaged spice mix and hot salsa.
Here is the story about how the Swedes adopted the Mexicans' everyday food and turned it into a Friday happening. Every Friday tens of thousands of tortilla shells & wraps and glass jars filled with salsa are picked down from the store shelves and past the checkout in supermarkets in Sweden and Norway. The work week is over and stressed parents, party-hungry students and middle-aged couples do as tens of thousands of Swedes do on Fridays - get ready for Taco Friday!
Sweden, together with Norway, is the country in Europe where residents spend the most money per person on tacos. But it has not always been like this. In fact, what today is synonymous with Fredagsmys and simple weekend food, was extremely close to being pulled from the shelves in the supermarkets and not being sold at all. We have a man called Lars-Olof to thank for it all. In the summer of 1988, Lars-Olof Mattson, then CEO of the flavouring company Nordfalks, which later became Santa Maria, was invited to a surprise dinner in Bohuslän where he was out sailing with a couple who invited him to to tacos that they had bought in Switzerland. Six families on six different sailboats and everyone ate as if there was no tomorrow. Lars-Olof himself had never tried tacos, but he was not late to see the business opportunities.
Just over two years later, in 1991, Santa Maria's taco packaging took the step into stores. At this time, Old El Paso dominated the Swedish market with 80 percent and another brand, Casa Fiesta with 20 percent. Santa Maria came in as third and had to give their everything to catch up with the two big brands, so they invested enormously in marketing. They worked very hard with store demonstrations to get customers to dare to taste the foreign food and they launched several campaigns and advertisements on TV. And although it took several years for Santa Maria to make a profit from its taco sales it was mainly because of the success of their marketing campaigns that taco sales increased by 20, 30 and 40 percent in Sweden in the next few years. Santa Maria passed Old El Paso in sales and is today the biggest company in Sweden at tacos. The flavouring company has become the industry leader in the Nordic region, something they can largely thank the taco sales for, which account for 75% of their sales.
But why this massive success of the Swedish taco? Some say it's because many Swedish people are used to eating bread with “pålägg” and our Swedish tradition of smorgasbord makes it feel natural to pick up your meal from a buffet.
The fact that the food is quick to prepare, simple and invites to a social gathering are also success factors, but mainly because it's simply delicious!
Although, in the beginning, the traditional way of eating tacos in Norway and Sweden was on a hard taco shell and the filling of choice was minced meat, nowadays anything goes. Some like replacing the filling with chicken or fish, others like exchanging the taco shell for a soft tortilla which also aims to make tacos easier for small children to handle. And as more and more Scandinavians choose a plant-based diet, nowadays there are many mouth-watering vegetarian and vegan options for taco fillings as well. Although it differs in every family, the "basic taco set" mostly consists of tortilla wraps (soft or hard), some kind of minced meat (can also be chicken, fish or vegetarian), corn, cucumber, salsa (or pico de gallo), guacamole, red peppers, a bit of salad, cheese and if you want to spice it up, some jalapenos. Nowadays there are as many variations of the Scandinavian taco as there are Scandinavians, and that's just the way we like it.