Eevia provides Arctic bounty to the world
Foods, nutritional supplements and even cosmetics are enriched by the far north’s unique natural resources.
A century ago the Sami writer Johan Turi published details of the Arctic region’s traditional medicine. He described the use of pine bark, lichen and fungi, among many other natural ingredients. The Sami knew what they were doing: modern science has proven the efficacy of many of these plants. Now the Finnish company Eevia is providing this natural bounty to the world.
Eevia is based in Seinäjoki, Finland and specialises in the extraction of bioactive compounds from berries and plants. Some of their raw materials include young pine bark and the chaga fungus commonly found on birch trees. Eevia also has expertise in berries, such as the lingonberry, cloudberry, bilberry (Nordic wild blueberry) and black currant.
“Most of our clients are in the nutritional supplement, cosmetic and food industries,” says Petri Lackman, head of Eevia’s R&D. “We do a lot of business domestically but we are also aggressively expanding internationally. We have distributor agreements in South Africa, South Korea, Germany, France, the UK and other countries. We aim to have 80-90 per cent of our business to be exports within two or three years.”
Some Arctic plants have already been studied extensively. Bilberries are popularly called a superfood and studies have examined if they can lower the risk of heart attacks, combat high blood pressure, improve memory, lower cancer risks and even improve eyesight. Less well-known Arctic plants are also being studied.
“We call it bioprospecting,” Lackman continues. “We get raw materials and screen for active ingredients. We analyse them to see what compounds work. If it looks good it goes into product development. Right now we have teamed up with the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation Tekes to research key ideas and we are in the process of filing patent applications. I’m quite excited about what we have coming.”
Eevia processes the plants to extract the active compounds and create powders or liquids. They might be put into capsules and tablets for nutritional supplements, or creams for cosmetics, or liquid extracts for health drinks.
“Finland’s northern regions are much better for our business than other Arctic areas around the world,” says Lackman. “We have the infrastructure such as roads and we also have the northern population. We have people there with the local knowledge, people who know where to find these plants and how to pick them. In some places in Canada, for instance, you have few people and few roads.”
Eevia is one of a growing number of Finnish firms focusing on the new bioeconomy. This utilises biological resources in food, energy and other products. The Finnish forestry industry has developed wood pellets for fuels and new wood-based materials to replace plastics created with petroleum. Eevia works closely with the forestry industry – particularly for their pine bark products – and Lackman is excited at what he is seeing.
“I’m very happy with the interest in this new industry,” he says. “We have Finnish universities doing great science on our natural resources. The government understands how important the bioeconomy will be and is supporting its development. And we at Eevia have something new coming soon which I’m sure will be a big hit.”
Text: David J. Cord