From Swiss chocolates to Italian olive oil, bringing home food souvenirs will prove more expensive in 2024.
Keychains of the Eiffel Tower. T-shirts reading “I love Peru.” A mug featuring the famous New York skyline. There are so many souvenirs you can buy that instantly whisk you off to a happy memory. While there is nothing wrong with starting a strong collection of mugs, keychains, and ornaments, chances are they’ll gather dust in a dark corner of your home.
As a frequent traveler, I was also a souvenir-collecting traveler, but it has been over two decades since I brought my last non-edible souvenir. I reached a point in my travels where I no longer found a purpose in buying the umpteenth magnet of my favorite landmark and didn’t really find the joy in a little teaspoon embossed with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, so I stopped buying pointless items and opted for edible food souvenirs instead.
I love buying food souvenirs for friends and family after returning from time abroad, whether that’s in southern France (nougat is my favorite), Australia (vegemite, of course), or the coastal towns of Sweden (kalix roe–tak!). Food souvenirs can offer a glimpse into the culture of a place; even something you buy from a supermarket, like olive oil in Greece or bubble tea-flavored snacks from Taiwan, can bring the flavors of a destination home to your loved ones.
While food souvenirs can prove a cheaper alternative to airport gifts, that hasn’t been the case lately, as the world grapples with inflation, grocery prices in supermarkets are rising because of international conflict, climate change, and high energy prices, pushing smaller, family-run producers to increase their margins. Items like olive oil from Spain are set to be more expensive in 2024 because of a series of droughts throughout the country; artisan rice from Italy and Japan are getting pricier due to hot weather conditions; and even whiskey from Scotland is set to be higher, too.
If you love buying food souvenirs, you might have to dig a little deeper in 2024, but if you are going to do so, it may be best to support locally run businesses so they can continue to fight climate change and other factors driving up food (souvenir) prices together.
Italian Olive Oil
Countries in the Mediterranean experienced extreme weather conditions in 2023; one of the industries hit the hardest was olive oil. Italy is one of the world’s largest olive oil producers, and across Tuscany and Liguria, bad harvests and low oil-producing olive trees have resulted in a limited supply. Family-run businesses like Laudemio have tried to fight climate change as best as possible by adopting new technology, but it has been challenging with very little rain. Prices in supermarkets across Europe have increased by 115%, but family-run businesses are staying resilient in the fight against climate change.
If you are going to spend more, you might as well buy the best and support smaller artisan producers like Galateo and Friends, where owner Marco Bonaldo admits that despite the “bad years” currently faced by olive oil producers, he will continue to produce the same high-end quality products using Taggiasca olives to fight climate change. I’m willing to dig deeper in my pocket for what many in Italy consider one of the best extra-virgin olive oils you can get.
Toblerone, Caillier, Faverger. Everyone loves chocolate, and everyone loves Swiss chocolate. Cocoa prices have jumped more than 21%, and it seems that with this demand for premium chocolate, the world’s sweet tooth will be more expensive to tame. Larger chocolate brands in Switzerland probably will feel less of the rising effect and push prices onto consumers, so the best way to help family-run businesses is to eat more chocolate from them—oui, bien sur!
One of my favorite historical chocolate brands, still run by the same family that started it more than a century ago, is Confiserie Brandli in Aarau. Located outside Zurich, this chocolate shop is worth the stop for their most popular item: Brandli Bombs—a dark ganache surrounded by marzipan and covered in crunch almonds.
Sugar prices in Asia and Europe have soared due to dry weather conditions and scorching hot summers in many parts of the world. Sweden, a country known for their FIKA culture, loves having something sweet in the morning, afternoon, and evening, so as you can imagine, prices for candy, jellies, and even chocolate have gone up in this Scandinavian country. One of the best souvenirs you can buy would be Swedish fish or licorice-flavored candy from the supermarket.
But if you want to support local artisans and bakeries, the best places to get your sugar fix would be at any of these bakeries Socker Sucker or Stora Bageriet, who also sell chocolates and cookies for you to take home to your friends and family.
I’m a carb person, and I love pretty shapes too—so when I visit Italy, I instantly buy bags and bags of dried pasta to take home to relive my bellissimo adventures in Italy. Pasta prices jumped more than 15% in 2023, and in more than 110 provinces in Italy, you cannot buy pasta for less than $2.20, which is more than double what you could have purchased a few years ago. For exquisite pasta, while supporting local artisans, check out Galateo & Friends Pasta, where all products are made with local wheat, and while you are at it, get another local specialty, rice, for your risotto.
Swedish Kalles Kaviar
There is nothing more Swedish than some kalix roe, best eaten lavishly over a freshly made artisan crispbread. While kalix fish roe is a specialty of Northern Lapland and very pricey, there is a cheaper alternative found in Ikea: Kalles kaviar, which makes for the best food souvenir when paired with some rye crispbread, rugbrot. Sure, you can get it in Ikea everywhere, but in Sweden, there are different fishy brands and caviar you can purchase to suit anyone’s budget. Prices are set to rise dramatically because of high energy prices in Sweden, and Swedish seafood is affected by climate change due to warm waters and overfishing, so it is best to stock up here if you can.
Enjoyed as a cocktail, on the rocks, or straight up – if you are a whiskey drinker (guilty!) or just want to bring your parents back a really good and classy bottle of whiskey from the Scottish coast, you may have to dig very deep into your pockets for the best ones next year. Single malt whiskies are set to rise again in 2024 due to supply chain issues, as well as the government increasing the price to tame underage drinking addiction. To buy directly from local distilleries, you may save a few bucks here and there to cut out the middle man, so check out either Old Pulteney or Glenfarclas if you want the best and not pay the surcharge supermarkets add to catch both consumers and small-business owners out.
If you thought you could mitigate the price increase for Scottish whiskey and jump over to Japan for their award-winning spirits, think again. Japanese whiskey will be more expensive in 2024, not because of climate change or any other reason related to Mother Nature but because it is getting far too popular. With more drinkers interested in Japanese whiskey, Japanese distilleries are increasing their production and prices! Hibiki, Yamazaki, and Fuyu Premium Artisanal Japanese whiskey are all set to go up.
Gruyere. Emmental. Appenzeller. Cheese is king in Switzerland, and despite the country making almost 200,000 tons of cheese a year, the cheese industry is facing some tough times. Supermarkets in Switzerland have had to increase some prices due to the cost of living, with many of the costs related to the milk industry and also export woes. The rising cost of living with higher energy bills has taken some toll on the dairy farmers in Switzerland, with many Gruyere cheese producers having to cut down their production as a consequence.
Swiss farmers are asking for more people to eat locally-made cheese to support them – so what are you waiting for? Sure, you can buy a few items for your family and friends, but to help out the hard-working farmers in the Alps, mountains, and Jura, you definitely have to enjoy Swiss cheese as fondue – the national dish of Switzerland. Check out the, who serve Jumi cheese, or Carlton St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps for fondue in a gondola to eat as much cheese as your stomach can take—all in the name of supporting local farmers, of course!
If you have taken a liking to Korea’s national alcoholic drink, Soju, you may find that prices have increased dramatically in the country with HiteJunro, South Korea’s largest soju maker, increasing both its soju and beer products by almost 10 percent recently. If you feel the steep price increase is just too much to bear, maybe resist the urge to buy soju for family and friends when in Seoul and take solace in a well-crafted soju cocktail like those found at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul. Boasting more than eight restaurants and bars, the OUL cocktail bar is the place for whiskies, vodka, and soju. Sikhye is my favorite cocktail from OUL, with craft soju, pumpkin cordial, clarified milk, and chai tea, but order any cocktail at this swanky bar, and you won’t be disappointed.
Korean Kimchi and Noodles
Not only are Koreans feeling the pinch on soju, but supermarkets across the country are steadily increasing prices for many household staples like glass noodles to make japchae, seaweed, and even their national food: Kimchi.
There are two reasons for the increase: cabbage prices are hitting new record numbers, and more foreign made kimchi are being imported into the country, driving up the prices of locally-made kimchi. The best and only way to digest this problem is to eat more kimchi and warm up with a hot bowl of noodles like those found at Restaurant Zest in Conrad Hotel Seoul, where the kimchi and noodles dishes are all made in-house.
On the island of Crete, Greece’s largest island, thousands of olive groves line the coastal villages for the most picturesque vacation on the Mediterranean you can imagine, but while the island is known for its resort-style living, it is also home to one of the most prized ingredients on the Med: olive oil. Family-run businesses have been battling a lot lately because of difficult weather conditions, resulting in low-yielding trees.
The tiny fruits have not produced as much olive oil as they used to, which means jarred olives have increased in price, too. Buying directly from local farmers like Mourello will help the industry, and visiting restaurants like Bacchus of Minos Beach Art Hotel, where chef Poppy works directly with local olive oil producers, will help the industry get back on its feet. If you can’t buy directly from small-family producers in Greece, California has exceptional olive oil producers like Ancient Olive Trees in Marin County.
Sri Lankan Tea
Tea prices are set to increase in parts of Asia, with many things causing the rise in prices.
Tea farmers are facing difficult situations. They are forced to raise prices because consumers are no longer interested in drinking tea, and climate change is causing bad weather conditions that have affected tea yields. What better way to support local farmers in Sri Lanka and greater Asia than to buy tea from family-run businesses like Dilmah Tea.
Indonesian Sambal and Singaporean Chili Paste
If you love spicy food and have always returned from SouthEast Asia wanting to replicate the delicious sambal you tasted there–it might be harder to do so now as a budget traveler with increased prices set to rise for jarred chili pastes in Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia.