Five For Friday: Berry innovations
In Finland, the sun is an inspiration and a mechanism that not only energises people, but also the abundant berries, wild herbs and mushrooms that are hidden in the dense Nordic forests.
Last week, Finnfacts organised a media tour for South Korean journalists, in cooperation with Finpro’s Food From Finland, to delve into the mindset behind the intimate relationship between nature and the companies turning wild ingredients into versatile food and beverage products.
“The Food From Finland growth programme helps Finnish food companies in their internationalisation and access to global markets,” says program manager Annaleena Soult. “The recent 15 per cent growth in food and beverage exports shows that we are on the right track.”
We had a chat with five companies that are transforming traditional Finnish ingredients into inventive delights that echo an understanding of reciprocity among environmental responsibility, ingredient quality, human wellbeing and product taste.
Founded in 1981 by Tatu Koivisto, nowadays this traditional family company is run by his son Pekka Koivisto, producing fresh, frozen and dried berries; jams and drinks; along with wild mushrooms. All products are first hand-picked and then processed as little as possible to savour the natural nutrients, vitamins and taste within.
“Pure, clean and wild nature guarantees the purity of our ingredients,” says Pekka. “Forests, often hundreds of years old, are the most natural and safe growing ground for all our products. The long summer days provide the ingredients a unique taste.”
After working as a chef, Jari Kurtti moved to Levi, one of the cleanest environments in the world, and began to realise the potential around him. With an ambitious mindset to find the perfect pairings of berries, vegetables and wild herbs, Kurtti uses hefty amounts of ingredients to make healthy snackbars
The 60 berries that go into one snackbar are chosen with the upmost care and criteria from the wild. Jari is motivated by the challenges of creativity to ensure product quality, healthiness and ecological prowess.
“At the time of founding the company, there were no similar products with Finnish ingredients,” Kurtti recalls. “After stumbling upon the potential in Lapland, it took a vigorous process of getting it right. The modern values of wellbeing, sustainability and yearning for a break from the hustle and bustle of city life are intrinsic in our products.”
This company produces a superfood drink made from berries, honey and wholegrain oats – all organic. The berries grow naturally in the forest where they have the best soil and Arctic climate to produce nutrient rich ingredients. The products are designed for people who care about sustainability as well as their personal health, combining two global consumer trends.
“Aberry is a 100 per cent natural energy drink for people who like to know the story of their food from wild nature to their breakfast table,” says co-founder and marketing director Indran Samarakone.
Henri and Miia Helanto founded Lyotech in 2011 and quickly harnessed their strong academic background to develop a pioneering freeze drying method. The result is NatureDry technology, a fast and low-temperature freeze drying method that preserves the flavours and nutrients of berries in an advanced way. The company has been valued at a nine-figure sum. Lyotech’s Joy of North product line includes freeze dried berries that are characterised by a premium combination of texture, taste and nutrients.
“The idea to apply our technology to berries was natural to us, since we spend a lot of time in the Lapland wilderness and appreciate the unique ingredients it has to offer,” says Henri. “Our technology preserves 97 per cent of the berries’ nutrients and does it 90 times faster than, for example, NASA.”
Moreover, the conventional limitations of freeze drying do not apply to the NatureDry technology. What started out as an Arctic wild berry project is now set to be applied to all food products. The company is looking for market opportunities for its Joy of North products as well as its technology.
After coming to Finland in 2008, Paola and David Cohen wanted to continue their hobby of making wine in their new home country. The only obstacle was sourcing the right local ingredients. A solution was found in Finnish berries.
“Finnish berry wines are underappreciated and people do not fully realise their potential,” David says.
Luckily the Cohens did, a feat which eventually led one of their dessert wines, Vaapukka, to nab a gold medal for quality and the first place in its category at the Paris Vinalies International Wine Competition last spring.
“We believe we have found something special and are on a mission to change perspectives by making the highest-quality berry wine,” Paola says.