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Coffee-related innovations brewing in Finland

VTT seeks to inspire the creation of an ecosystem that is able and ready to pioneer a new kind of coffee based on its cellular agriculture-based production process.

Vesa Kippola

Lab-produced coffee and textile dye created from coffee grains are two recent innovations to emerge from Finland.

VTT has unveiled the details of the production process, starting with the establishment of coffee cell cultures, in a scientific article published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

“Our wish is that the publication of this scientific article, which clearly demonstrates proof of concept for lab-grown coffee, nudges forward the creation of an ecosystem or a collective that has the resources, knowhow and drive to pioneer an entirely new type of coffee,” stated Heiko Rischer, principal scientist and head of plant biotechnology at VTT.

The research team believes lab-grown coffee can address various challenges associated with conventional coffee production – from labour rights to land use, water use and other environmental considerations.

Lab-grown coffee also promises significant productivity improvements, with a new batch of coffee ready every month compared to once or twice a year with conventional methods.

Rischer, though, estimated that the road from laboratory to supermarket shelves and kitchen cabinets will likely be a long one given the plethora of factors that affect the sensory qualities of the end product: the soil, climate, elevation and year in which the beans were grown, as well as the roasting, fermentation and brewing processes.

“It’s one thing to grow coffee cells in a bioreactor. Making it a commercially viable product is a whole other matter,” he reminded. “While lab-grown coffee is much more controlled, different approaches to, for example, roasting significantly impact the aroma profile of the coffee, which is a key consideration for the consumer.”

The dyes produced have already been used by different Finnish textile companies in their products.


Meanwhile, Paulig revealed that Natural Indigo Finland, a Helsinki-based startup, has begun producing natural dyes from ground coffee waste produced at its coffee roastery in Vuosaari, Helsinki. With an annual output of 60 million coffee packages across a product portfolio of 200, the roastery is one of the largest in Europe.

“It is great to see the side streams of our coffee production find a new purpose as raw material in a completely different industry,” said Kaisa Lipponen, head of communications and sustainability at Paulig.

Ranging from different shades of gold and brown all the way to blue, the dyes have already generated international interest and been used by textile companies in Finland, including Marimekko.

Riika Wikberg, chief business development officer at Marimekko, said natural dyes are one area in which the design house is actively looking for alternatives to conventional methods. Marimekko and Natural Indigo, she highlighted, have collaborated since 2019, including by testing the quality and colour fastness of different dyes at its printing factory in Helsinki.

“[We have] thus helped in the wider use of natural dyes in the textile industry.”

By: Aleksi Teivainen