The Restaurant Food That Saved Conshohocken’s IKEA and Stores Across the World

ikea meatballs
Image via IKEA.
People around the world love IKEA's Swedish meatballs, especially in Conshohocken.

When you think of IKEA, you think flat-pack furniture, maze-like showrooms, reports Nathaniel Meyersohn for CNN Business.

And many think of the Swedish Meatballs. But how did these meatballs end up being the symbol of Scandinavian furniture?

IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, had started the company as a mail-order company. The IKEA name comes from Kamprad’s initials and the Swedish village and farm where he came grew up.

Kamprad envisioned the IKEA’s restaurants where customers could sit and plan out their living rooms (with IKEA furniture) as well as have a bite to eat.

Originally, the very first in-store café in Sweden had just coffee and cake, then traditional Swedish dishes like sausage and potato mash, but there was a struggle to sell food in its stores.

Former store manager Sören Hullberg created a new concept for the restaurants as well as the brand identity, bringing in food that would be popular across countries and cultures.

Meatballs were a mainstay in Swedish diets. “Even if it’s not really a Swedish innovation, meatballs exist in every culture you come to,” he said.

IKEA then debuted the meatballs in 1985.

In current IKEA stores, you don’t get to eat right away, they’d rather you wander through the showrooms thinking about what to buy in addition what to eat, working up an appetite for those Swedish meatballs, which now come in four varieties.

Read more about IKEA’s classic restaurant staple on CNN.