Kala-Lappi a big fish on the gourmet scene
Finnish fish refining company Kala-Lappi uses traditional yet unique methods to smoke rainbow trout for local and European markets.
Finland is known as a land of a thousand lakes and has approximately 300 000 kilometres of coastline. Consequently, as water is constantly present, fishing has become a popular sport, and fish a natural part of the Finnish diet.
While there are a good many ways to prepare fish, the traditional method of smoking has been an evergreen approach over the centuries. Giving the fish a pleasant smoky aroma and beautiful colour, the most commonly used method to generate smoke for this purpose is by combusting alder trees.
”I grew up with the captivating scent of alder smoke, as both my father and grandfather were enthusiastic fishermen and fish smokers,” says Vesa Lappi, CEO of fish refining company Kala-Lappi. “The company was born from a passion for fishing. I have further developed the traditional crafts skills of four generations by utilising modern technology to make larger scale production possible.”
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and some generations later there will be a prospering business that brings together traditional craft skills, one-of-a-kind machinery and modern technology.
Kala-Lappi combines Finland’s highly valued duo of artistry and high technology, designing, developing and constructing its production technology to smoke fish itself. The top quality and unique end products are based on very special production methods that ensure their inimitability.
“For our cold-smoked trout products, we have built a special cold room that is based on burning alder wood chips,” Vesa Lappi explains. “We wrote the code by ourselves for the machine, which allows 72 different phases to be used during cold-smoking, such as changes in pressure variation and the amount of smoke.”
Doing the world of good
Kala-Lappi has currently four different smoked rainbow trout products that are on sale nationwide in Finland. Furthermore, the company exports its products for a first-class French gourmet chain, as well as to grocery stores in newly opened test markets in Denmark and Germany. Spain will follow later this year.
“There is a lot of competition in this sector, and that’s why I am even more proud of how good a reception our products have received across the board,” Lappi says. “High quality smoked fish attracts people from all around and is considered to be exotic by many.”
After starting from scratch in 2013, today the company has had negotiations in 15 different countries, employs 18 people and turnover is expected to hit 3.6 million euros in 2017.
“Our strategy is to keep growing fast, but we need to keep it under control,” Lappi explains. “We have limited production capacity and before our new production facilities are in operation, we need to be patient with new openings in order to ensure the continuity of the current deliveries.”
So far, all the products has been made of Finnish rainbow trout that has been fished mainly in the archipelago of Turku. In the long run, the selection will be broadened to other fish species.
“I have some new products ready in my back pocket,” Lappi reveals. “I am confident that, if there is a strong demand even for smoked lake fish, there is a way to meet the demand.”
Nowadays, when liquid smoke used for flavouring is commonly used and electric smokers are gaining ground, the classic smoking methods and knowledge have become exclusive and special quality. Kala-Lappi thus has what it takes to deliver these genuinely aromatic, melt-in-your-mouth Finnish gourmet flavours to the world.
Text: Tuomas Koivisto