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Little Denmark’s Big, Big Industries

With a population of less than six million inhabitants, the Kingdom of Denmark is one of Europe’s smallest countries. However, in many industrial sectors, this Nordic state is a surprisingly big player.

Although mainland Denmark is, of course, much smaller than Sweden and Norway, the territory of the Kingdom of Denmark is actually more extensive than that of its nothern neighbours. Greenland – the world’s largest island – is under the Danish crown, so Danish territory stretches as far west as eastern Canada and the eastern United States and further north than the whole of Russia and Norway – including Franz Josef Land and Svalbard.

A Modern, Mixed Economy

Denmark has basically a modern mixed economy. The country enjoyes a comfortable standard of living and a high level of government services. On the other hand, it s also heavily dependet on foreign trade. As in most West European countries, the economy is dominated by the service sector, which accounts for as much as 80 percent of employment.

Small Nation, Large GDP

Figures published by Worldometers.com and The World Population Review indicate that Denmark has just over 5,8 mln inhabitants, 1,38 mln of whom reside in the capital, Copenhagen. Nonetheless, according to figures published by the Statistics Times for 2020, this tiny country has the seventh largest GDP per capita in the world – USD 58,439 per inhabitant – putting it just behind the United States, where that figure stands at USD 63,051.

Powerful Export Sectors

One reason behind the power of the Danish economy is undoubtedly its exports. According to figures published by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), Denmark is the thirty-eighth largest export economy in the world. Figures published by Daniel Workman’s WTEX (World’s Top Exports) website indicate that 75,1 percent of Danish exports in 2020 went to European countries, while 14,3 percent of them were sent to destinations in Asia and 6,7 percent to North American customers.


The OECD’s official website and WTEX both claim that pharmaceuticals – especially packaged medicines – are Denmark’s top export. WTEX says the total value of Danish pharmaceutical exports during 2020 was USD 19,2 bln, i.e. 17.7 per cent of total exports, while the OECD claims that USD 9 bln of packaged medicines were exported from Denmark during the same year. Novo Nordisk A/S, based in Bagsværd, a suburb of Copenhagen, is one of Denmark’s biggest brands, and the world’s leading healthcare companies.

Pork Production: The Crowning Glory

Over 60 percent of the total area of Denmark is utilised for agricultural purposes. Accordingly, meat, especially pork is another key Danish export sector. Indeed, until 2016, Denmark was the top exporter of pork from the EU to non-European markets (chiefly China and South Korea). Now it has been overtaken by Spain and Germany. Nevertheless, according to OECD figures, the value of Danish pork exports for 2020 totalled USD 2,7 bln, while WTEX says total Danish meat exports for the same year amounted to USD 4,1 which was 3.8% of total exports.

One of the world’s largest meat exporters as well as Europe’s largest pork manufacturing companies is the Danish Crown Group, which has been operating for more than 130 years and has access to over 130 countries. The crowning glory of the Danish meat industry, one might say.

However, the Tulip brand is often credited as Denmark’s oldest brand. It specialises in canned and chilled meat products, as well as salami, which are also sold over the world.

Since Denmark basically consists of a peninsula and archipelago, it is only natural that fish production is another key industry in the country. According to WTEX, Denmark exported USD 3,5 bln worth of the commodity in 2020, while the Insider Monkey website claims the country is the world’s tenth largest exporter of fish, including cod, herring and salmon. Nordic Seafood A/S of Hirtshals in North Jutland ranks among the world’s prime exporters of seafood products.

Energy: Wind Power, Oil and Gas

The energy sector is also pivotal to the Danish economy. The Largest Companies website, powered by Nordic Market Data AB of Stockholm, is reliable source of company data for the Nordic countries. It states that energy trading company Energi Danmark A/S as well as wind turbine manufacturers Vestas Manufacturing and Ørsted A/S are ranked as the country’s second, fourth and eighth largest companies respectively (by turnover). The evergrowing demand for environmentally friendly energy generation bodes well for the Danish economy.

Although most people associate oil and gas with Norway, the Danes also produce and export their fair share of North Sea black and blue gold. By the OECD’s calculations, the value of refined pertoleum exported by Denmark in 2020 was USD 2.24 bln, making it the country’s third-biggest export. Apart from Ørsted, the most prominent Danish petroleum companies are Danoil Exploration A/S of Viby in Århus as well as Mærsk Oil, a branch of one of the world’s leading shipping companies, A.P. Møller-Mærsk A/S (better known as Mærsk), whose headquarters are in Copenhagen.

Danfoss is another energy-based multinational which the observer cannot afford to ignore. Its head office is in Nordborg on the island of Als, and selling point is engineering solutions designed to promote sustainable energy utilisation worldwide.

Other Big Brands

Of course, one of the most renowned Danish brands is Carlsberg, whose beer is consumed throughout the world. Between the 1970s and 2010s, it was marketed as ”probably the best lager in the world”. The company arranges tours of its brewery in Copenhagen for tourist, who can stock up on their favourite tipple at the Carlsberg Brand Store. Other popular Danish beer brands on the domestic and international markets are Faxe and Tuborg.

Two more of Denmark’s best-known enterprises are LEGO, the world-renowned toy company based in Billund in Mid Jutland (hence the popular amusement park Legoland) and Copenhagen-based Danisco, a global specialist in biobased food ingredients and inudstrial enzymes.

Nordic Tiger

Despite the global economic crisis caused by the dreaded pandemic, denmark remains among the most affluent countries on Earth. With its sizeable oil and gas supplies and dynamic industrial sectors, this is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future.

Little Denmark’s Big, Big Industries, Jonathan Moore, Business English Magazine, Nr 84/2021, lipiec/sierpień 2021.


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