The untold truth of IKEA's hot dog

IKEA is a wonderland of many things. From BILLY bookcases to Lingonberry jam, you can find nearly anything you need for your home in these sprawling warehouses around the world. That includes sustenance, because let's be real, you probably go to IKEA just for the food half the time. They started serving food in 1959 as the founders realized, because of how big the IKEA warehouses were, people had to take a considerable amount out of their day to go to them and often were hungry during that trip. What better way to get people to stay a bit longer and to satiate those post-shopping stomach grumbles than be serving up Swedish (and not-so-Swedish) fare? 

From there came the cafes, and from the cafes came the bistros. The delightful hot dog made its debut in the 1980s, offering the perfect snack for shoppers. The IKEA hot dog has established a bit of a following over the decades, many shoppers claiming they can't leave the store without getting one. But how well do you know the story of the IKEA hot dog? Time to find out.

IKEA's hot dogs are really cheap

The truly ridiculously low prices at the IKEA bistro for their hot dogs may cause you to do a double take. A hot dog for 75 cents? A dollar? The price varies slightly depending on where you are, but you're never going to be paying more than $2.50 for the meal deal or a buck for a single hot dog. The new veggie dog is even cheaper. With those types of prices, you may wonder how IKEA makes any money at all with their hot dogs. The answer lies with the fact that 30 percent of their customers are just going to IKEA to eat. 

IKEA makes money on their food — alot of money — IKEA Food had a turnover of $2.3 billion in 2017, but it's still supplementary to what they make on furniture sales. It all goes back to the original idea of feeding people while they're shopping. People will stay longer if there's food, and chances are they will buy more.

Also, the hot dogs are the perfect snacking size, but maybe you'll buy another one after enjoying the first. After all, it's only a dollar. It doesn't seem like such a splurge at that price. Perhaps your partner would like one too, or you should bring a few home for the family or friends who are going to be suckered into building that wardrobe you just bought with you. You might as well bribe them with some hot dogs.

IKEA's hot dogs have gone vegan

Claiming that their regular hot dog was lonely after 37 years of being on the bistro menu, IKEA developed a vegan alternative as the yang to the original's ying. It's also part of their larger commitment to offering vegetarian and vegan renditions of their classics and to appeal to a wider consumer base. 

When the vegan dog was introduced at the company's flagship Malmö, Sweden location in February 2018 on a trial basis, the vegetable filled dog garnished an astounding 95 percent approval rating. Nothing to balk at. Seeing an opportunity, IKEA went ahead and went into full production on the vegan dog. At first you could only get it in Sweden, but it quickly was then being offered all over Europe and has now made its way to American shores and other international locations. That's one popular hot dog.

Softer in texture, but still extraordinarily delicious, the IKEA vegan hot dog is a mix of kale, red lentils, carrots, and ginger. Toppings include pickled red cabbage, crispy fried onions, and brown mustard. With over 1 million sold in just two months in Europe, the vegan dog is definitely here to stay.

There are a variety of toppings for IKEA's hot dogs

After you've gotten your hot dog from the bistro, chances are that you'll be heading to the condiment section to load it up. That is if you aren't at one of the lucky IKEAs that have extra special toppings. Some will have relish available in addition to mustard and ketchup, while some locations have fried onions, pickles, jalapenos, and who knows what else. The condiments available to you may very well depend on what country you're in, but you can always have a look around the bistro to see what your particular IKEA has on offer. Most of the condiment areas are self-serve, so be courteous to your fellow hot dog munching co-shoppers. Steal all the mustard and you may have a riot on your hands.

Pro tip: if you want a regular meat hot dog, but are seriously craving the array of toppings that the new vegan hot dog gets, you can have them add it. Just ask. It's not something that is particularly advertised, as then everyone will want them, but well, now you know! You can thank us later.

IKEA's hot dogs are under 300 calories

Remember how we said that IKEA is super focused on making good healthy food available at a low price? Well, here's another indication of that! When you think of hot dogs you don't tend to think of them as being a particularly healthy treat. Hot dogs are meant to be delicious, not necessarily good for you. However, IKEA doesn't think that way. The hot dog comes in at just 280 calories, and that's including the bun! Made with sustainable, responsible ingredients, the IKEA hot dog is simply just a better snack for you. It terms of its nutrition, the Swedish take on the hot dog has 16 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 40mg of Cholesterol, 750 mg of Sodium, 23 grams of carbs, and 11 grams of Protein.

If you're looking to grab the combo meal deal, you'll get two hot dogs, chips, and a fountain beverage. Obviously, all those low numbers are about to double, with up to 890 calories depending on the drink you get. We'll just say the hot dog is healthy in moderation at IKEA.

IKEA's hot dog are made of beef and chicken

This one may come as a bit of a surprise, especially as the IKEA hot dogs are typically advertised as being 100 beef beef or all beef. This isn't true. According to Krista Boyer, who spoke with Mashed via e-mail, the hot dogs are made of both beef and chicken in The United States. Chicken is even listed before beef, which makes one think the hot dogs are primarily poultry–based rather than beef. The mind boggles. It was specified that ingredients vary from country to country, so there may be more beef in your hot dog if you're in Australia or Japan, but for the US and Canada, there is a bunch of chicken in there.

The listed ingredients of the IKEA hot dog are: mechanically separated chicken, beef, water, modified corn starch, salt, wheat flour, spice wheat gluten, sodium erythorbate, garlic powder, sodium nitrate, and smoke. The USDA defines mechanically separated chicken as "a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible tissue, through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue." 

Now, this may sound seriously gross, but bones (or at least bone powders) are typically included in hot dogs. Sodium erythorbate is simply just to preserve and cure the hot dog, as is sodium nitrate. The latter, however, has been linked to heart disease and some cancers however, so maybe don't eat a dozen of these in one sitting.

IKEA's hot dogs are not where you might think

If you head to an IKEA cafe in search of one of their famous hot dogs, you'll either wind up perplexed or gravely disappointed. Because, they're not there! In order to get a hot dog in IKEA, you typically have to pass the cash registers after the warehouse. Some IKEA locations have different set-ups, but generally The Bistro will be at the end of your IKEA adventure. 

It's very strategically placed. You've been walking through the 35,000 square foot playground of furniture and home goods. You're exhausted. You've got one child screaming in one ear and your partner grumbling about how you should have chosen the MACKAPÄR instead of the STÄLL in the other. You've spent way too much money. And then, there it is. Like a beacon of satiation and silence: The Bistro.

It's here that you can grab a hot dog before you load up all of your boxes and flat packs. It's here that you can get a reprieve and relax. It's here that you can eat hot dogs to your heart's content. And it's hard to ignore them, laid out there, glistening and ready to be bunned for your consumption.

Brilliant.

The bread for IKEA's hot dogs is super soft

One of the greatest things in the world is bread. And you need just the right bread for a great hot dog bun. Thankfully IKEA has that covered with their enriched buns that are super soft. Split down the middle, these buns cradle the hot dog just so, allowing for perfect handling as well as condiment protection. Your mustard and ketchup won't be spilling out with these buns, especially if you do it Danish style with condiments on the bottom. 

The bun is so iconic to IKEA's hot dog that even home-made recipes and dupes online all suggest you need a fluffy, soft bun. Though vegans beware, some claim that even the vegan hot dog's bun has eggs in it. It appears, however, that may not be true.

IKEA's Krista Boyer told Mashed via e-mail that the ingredient list doesn't include eggs in the United States. The full list of what's in the bun is: Enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin, mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, sugar, yeast, soybean and/or canola oil, wheat gluten, salt, calcium proprionate (preservative), vegetable monoglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, sorbic acid (preservative), and enzymes. 

If you're concerned about eggs in the buns, just ask at your local IKEA to see their ingredient list.

IKEA's hot dogs are made according to each country's taste

IKEA's hot dogs aren't just popular in The US, they're loved worldwide. Though it's not quite the same everywhere you go. Hot dogs around the globe are specifically tailored to each country that they're sold in. After all, people in different countries have different tastes. Not everyone is just a straight ketchup and mustard kind of person. If you're in Germany, expect to be able to throw some pickles on your hot dog as well as fried onions. In Kuwait the hot dogs are actually corn dogs, while home in Sweden they have something called a "bread dog" which is, essentially, a hot dog wrapped in bread. Get double the dog in Turkey and drenched in melted cheddar cheese in Greece.

Perhaps the most startling iteration of the IKEA hot dog comes from Japan. They came out with a ninja dog, a charcoal infused  foot long hot dog that is jet black along with its jet black bun. In addition to the charcoal buns (and dogs) in Japan, in the springtime they get the cherry blossom treatment. Occasionally various IKEAs will come out with limited edition hot dogs, like this JUMBO dog from Singapore, covered in nacho cheese and fried onions.

IKEA's wants to stop wasting hot dogs (and other food)

Part of IKEA's operations is constantly and consistently monitoring food waste. Wanting to reduce their carbon footprint, IKEA makes sure to weigh all the wasted food at the end of each day on their smart scales to see where they are and how they can change either their operations or how much food they're ordering and making. Can't find many restaurants doing that, let alone furniture stores.

According to IKEA, over one billion tons of food are wasted per year and one in nine people on Earth are undernourished. Wanting to take the lead in fighting against food waste, IKEA believes by making little changes in their kitchens and food-prep areas, larger changes will be reflected over time. It's a noble cause, and one that they're quite pro-active in, creating the "Food is Precious" initiative. The plan is that by 2020, IKEA will have halved all of its food waste, including pre- and post-consumer food waste.

As of January 2019, 247 stores out  of 423 were taking part and had reduced 1,786,605 kilograms of food waste. This equals roughly 4,003,896 meals. So next time you're ordering a bunch of hot dogs, keep that in mind. They've only got so many to go around, as they don't want to be wasting those precious sausages.