5 minutes


When the first Biedronka was established in Poland, and this was at a time when Bill Clinton was President of the United States, Boris Yeltsin was President of Russia and Lech Walesa ruled Poland, no one expected that the largest retail chain in the country today would become a vehicle for real democratisation on the Vistula.

No one expected that it would soon be instrumental in the disappearance of the civilisational distance between the cities and the rest of the country, still recovering, like a phoenix from the ashes, from half a century of communism and the long shadow of the Soviet Union. Poland’s post-1989 freedom is the result of the first free elections on 4 June of that year, but the embracing of equality and good energy throughout the country has been due to Biedronka.

Political democracy was won in Poland by a democratic opposition harassed by the communists, by people who spent years in prison for their beliefs. In 1989, freedom was born in Poland, but galloping inflation and unemployment became the new diseases plaguing society. And because inflation was emptying wallets (much like as it is happening today), there was room for food stores to help deal with inflation as effectively as possible. Such were the needs at the time: allowing Poles to buy food products at low prices.

Old photo of the inside of the first biedronka store, with customers shopping on the fruis and vegetables corridor
Biedronka initially focused its strategy on offering affordable prices on a wide selection of popular goods.

The first Biedronka was established in 1995, but a year later there already were 500 stores operating under the banner. The discount format worked well in the Poland of the 1990s and not just because of the low prices. An equally important reason was the fact that the stores were built in more remote areas: in villages deprived of access to modern food products, in small towns where the Biedronka stores were, next to the church, school and police station, the centre of local community life, but also in larger cities where the market for all fast-moving consumer goods was larger – and people were eager for products like that.

Biedronka: providing better food, enhancing a better life

Everywhere, Biedronka stores helped to unleash an energetic will to live by first providing Poles with a wide selection of low prices on popular goods, and nowadays giving access to high quality food, still at affordable prices. This is how Biedronka has democratised access to quality food in Poland over the last 30 years.

Poland ranks 21st in the Global Food Security Index (designed and constructed by Economist Impact, affiliated with The Economist), which looks at data from 113 countries. Since 2012, the country’s food security has improved by seven points, moving from a “moderate” to a “good” classification. This is largely due to Biedronka.

Poland achieved its highest score in the “Food Affordability” category. The authors of the report emphasise that the country has succeeded in making food affordable for everyone. Besides prices, largely shaped by Biedronka, the advantage of food in Poland is also its quality and safety. In this category, Poland ranks 15th overall and 9th out of the 27 European Union countries. However, there would be no such high rankings if it were not for Biedronka’s consistent activity.

This consistency is not only the constant and successful striving to be the #1 retailer in Poland, which is a fact, but also the work done on its own over the past almost 30 years since the first Biedronka store opened its doors.

Biedronka has democratised access to quality food in Poland over the last 30 years.

In the late 1990s, Poles used to describe Biedronka as being “more of a warehouse than a store”, having “goods stacked on pallets, dairy products on open shelves”, giving the “general impression of clutter, lack of order”, having “a very limited selection of products” and targeting “people with a less affluent wallet and not very high expectations”. Back then, Poles were buying basic products such as bread, milk, butter, selected cold cuts and cheap and simple dairy products in Biedronka.

Today, the general opinion has rotated 180 degrees. Biedronka is portrayed as having stores with a very good visual impression, “organised, aesthetically pleasing”, with lockable refrigerators for dairy and cured meats, without pallets everywhere, where “fruit and vegetables are nicely displayed”, offering “a large selection of world cuisine products from recognised producers”. Thanks to the pioneering trail blazed by Biedronka, Poles now have access to sophisticated products like fish and seafood, cured meats, cheese, a wide selection of vegetables and exotic fruits, excellent coffees and great wines.

Image of a young woman in the fruits corridor of a Biedronka's store, holding a pineapple, with a young kid by her side holding an apple
Biedronka’s image has completely shifted to positive, praised for organised stores, attractive displays and a diverse range of quality products.

Over the years, Biedronka has been a driving force in the development of the Polish economy – especially local farmers and producers, as well as national industry. In fact, 93 per cent of the food products sold at the more than 3,500 stores is sourced locally. The positive impact on suppliers and along the value chain in Poland is beyond measure.