The Nordic climate, with its short but luminous summer, makes local berries particularly tasty and healthy. Packed with vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and fibre, berries are one of Finland’s most valuable export products.
With over 500 million kilos of berries growing in forests across the country each year, here are five companies bringing the best out of these pure natural ingredients.
With roots going back over 100 years, this Turku-based family enterprise has come up with an inventive way to provide health-conscious consumers with a daily dose of Nordic berries, delivered in a drinkable format. Roberts’ Berrie “shots” are made from whole berries, including the skin and seeds, which are rich in flavonoids, vitamins and fibre, and can be stored at room temperature.
“The great innovation behind all this is the standardisation of the berries,” explained CEO Mikko Roberts. “By standardisation, I mean that we can, for example, guarantee the conservation of bilberries for eight months. Thereby, the availability of berries is constant and we are not dependent on the harvest or location.”
Global interest in health-enhancing foods is rapidly growing, and so are orders on Roberts Berrie online shop, as well as the company’s exports to China, South Korea and other countries.
“Berrie products are designed for anyone who is interested in nutrition and wants to take care of their health,” Roberts summarised.
The berry season is quite short, and freezing is a good way to extend it. Freezing, however, can adversely affect the product quality due to ice crystal growth, moisture migration and other factors. Acoustic Extra Freezing (AEF), a tech company that expanded from Russia to Finland with the help of the Finnish Startup Permit programme, aims to revolutionise the frozen food industry with its unique technology for retaining the original taste, colour, texture and biochemical properties of food products.
AEF’s innovation relies on acoustic waves that prevent the growth of sharp and erratically sized ice crystals, typical of conventional shock freezing. As a result, the structure of food cells remains intact. The technology is perfect for freezing berries, fruits and vegetables, as well as fish, meat and seafood products.
“You can tell the difference just by tasting,” said managing director Andrey Pechurin. “With our technology, the frozen food tastes just like the fresh product. Before this was impossible.”
AEF last year was one of the 10 agricultural and food technology startups selected for FAN Nordic Hub, a Helsinki-based accelerator programme promoting the creation of sustainable food systems.
Founded by Paola and David Cohen, a husband-wife duo who moved to Finland from the US in 2008, Ainoa Winery has set itself the challenging goal of filling the gap in the market for berry wines made from locally sourced ingredients. Originally met with a great deal of scepticism, the idea of turning Finnish blueberries, raspberries, cloudberries and lingonberries into flavoursome wines has proved a success with both consumers and the industry’s top experts.
Over the last few years, Ainoa has picked up an impressive haul of international awards, including the prestigious Vinalies International Wine Competition in Paris. In fact, Ainoa’s Vaapukka, Kuningator and Sametti dessert wines are the world’s only berry wines ever awarded at Vinalies.
Thanks to the international recognition and the ability to pair perfectly with Nordic cuisine, Ainoa’s berry wines have also found their way onto the wine lists of some of the most celebrated restaurants in Finland.
“We are putting Finland on the world map of wine,” noted Paola. “We believe we have something special.”
Vaasa-based Taiga Chocolate has found its niche in combining premium handmade chocolate and exciting flavours from Finnish nature. Thanks to freeze drying, the wild bilberries, lingonberries, raspberries and sea buckthorns found in each chocolate bar retain up to 97 per cent of their vitamins, which is almost like picking them straight from the forest.
“I wanted to create something special and found freeze-dried berries, which I think go perfectly with the dark chocolate,” founder Anne Nymark told us a few years ago.
Aiming to become a “world-class brand that brings a positive feeling to people worldwide”, the company has set its sights on international markets from day one. Asia, with its strong wellbeing trends and rising awareness of food sustainability, is of particular interest to Taiga.
“According to research, the consumption of snacks and health awareness are growing rapidly in Asia, and we can combine these demands in our product,” noted sales director Tanja-Maria Davidov.
Inspired by the purity of nature in Finnish Lapland, Arctic Warriors is on a mission to make local wild herbs and berries world famous by turning them into a wide range of tasty products and healthy superfoods.
All the ingredients, such as blueberries and lingonberries, as well as spruce sprouts, nettle, roseroot and angelica, are sourced from the company’s own network of farmers and wildlife pickers to ensure the best quality and support local communities.
“The company name tells about the strengths and function of these herbs,” outlined co-founder Tuija Kauppinen.“The warrior of defence protects the body, endurance keeps the stress away and energy is natural energy. Also, the name is kind of a mission statement: we want to keep Lapland alive.”