Five for Friday: Veggie delights
The selection of vegetarian and vegan options in supermarkets has grown remarkably in the past few years. In Finland, some of the alternatives are of local produce.
Food is life! In the case of vegetarians and vegans even more so, as even the UN has encouraged global reduction in meat consumption to help save the planet as well as improve people’s health. One aspect not to be forgotten is animal welfare, too.
These Finnish companies are doing their fair share to help people fill their plates with veggie options rather than animals.
Traditional Japanese tofu gets contemporary forms in the hands of Jalotofu experts in Tammisaari. Jouko Riihimäki, commercial director at Jalofoods, doesn’t see the company working towards replacing or eradicating meat; rather, the aim is add to the alternatives that enable people to make their diets healthier and more sustainable.
“People are increasingly aware of the effects of food production on both their health and the environment,” he told us in August. “The fact is that the biggest increase in sales doesn’t come from full-on vegans and vegetarians as such, but from people who choose to reduce their meat consumption and opt for plant-based alternatives more often than they used to.”
Protein- and fibre-packed, soy- and gluten-free härkis made from Finnish-grown fava beans is a household name in Finland. Now, its producer Verso Food is heading abroad under the name Fava Mill, first in Sweden and Norway and later in continental Europe and the UK.
CEO Tarja Ollila pointed out to us that she doesn’t see similar companies as competitors. Rather, she calls them partners.
“The market is still so small I think that if anything, we’re supporting each other,” she explained in May. “The more alternatives there are, the more people deem them worthy for their plates, too.”
Pulled oats made Finland go berserk for its flavour: in-store trials sold out in a few hours and production was rapidly ramped up for widespread release in the country. Last year, food company Paulig acquired the majority ownership of the manufacturer Gold&Green Foods. The company has its eyes on the global markets.
“To put it really simply, you could say that we have invented a new soy,” Maija Itkonen from Gold&Green Foods told us in February 2016. “It’s a perfect protein based on Nordic ingredients.”
Starting from pressing juice from fresh fruit and vegetables at the back of founder Merja Scharlin‘s garage, the company then went on to develop of a brand new product of their own, the probiotic oat-based Yosa. The expert in fermented oat products has since been acquired by Fazer. The company still continues to be headed by Niko Scharlin, a member of the founder family.
“Yosa was a pioneer, being the world premiere for a product made by fermentation of oat, utilising selected probiotic lactic acid and bifido bacteria,” the company mentions on its website. “The birth of Yosa in 1995 also became the launch of a strong and productive collaboration with certain universities.”
Sweets normally don’t (and probably shouldn’t) fill anyone’s plate, but that’s not to say they shouldn’t be enjoyed. Vegans can have a sweet tooth, too, which was taken into consideration at Makulaku. According to export director Jorma Alanen, offering organic and vegan filled liquorice hits two growing global trends.
To Alanen’s knowledge, Makulaku is the only brand that produces filled liquorice that satisfies the cravings of all persuasions.
“At the moment, about half of all production is exported, but the percentage is growing,” he told us in April. “There is plenty of potential in the international market, and we’re constantly looking for new distributors.”