Artist's impression of plant-based foods
Finland is spreading awareness for a sustainable, plant-based lifestyle with foodstuffs that have positive effects on people and the environment. Image: Julia Helminen

FIVE FROM FINLAND: Plant-based foods 

These Finnish food innovators are working hard to ensure there are more plant-based options in grocery shops and restaurants than ever before. 

Zhanna Koiviola

29.08.2022

Research shows that greenhouse gas emissions from animal-based foods are almost double that of plant-based foods. It comes as no surprise then that environmental advocates worldwide have been pushing for a reduction in meat consumption by shifting to a plant-based diet.  

To cater to a growing meat-free consumption megatrend, more and more Finnish food companies offer tasty vegetarian and vegan options, attracting global accolades. Gold&Green Foods, for example, was named in Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies 2022 index, ranking seventh in the food category. Known for its line of versatile pulled oats products, Gold&Green’s production facility in Järvenpää was recently acquired by Foodiq, a Finnish developer and producer of plant-based products that raised 13 million euros in funding earlier this year. 

Below are five more examples from Finland proving that plant-based eating is the future of food. 

Rooty 

a package of frozen potato noodles

Made from Finnish potatoes, Rooty-branded products are an innovative alternative to imported noodles and rice. Image: Facebook / Rooty

The latest addition to the Pohjolan Peruna brand portfolio, Rooty is the perfect solution for modern eco- and health-conscious home cooks looking for new ingredients. Behind Rooty is a patented innovation that allows to shape potatoes into ribbon-like noodles and rice-like grains. Manufactured without additives or heavy processing and sold frozen, the final products are low in carbohydrates, as well as gluten- and lactose-free. 

Making for easy-to-cook side dishes, Rooty Pan Noodle and Rooty Potato Rice are also a better option from an environmental point of view, as the carbon footprint of rice and wheat is considerably larger than that of potatoes. 

Among the most vigorous supporters of Rooty products is renowned Finnish chef Linnea Vihonen. She has collaborated with the brand to develop some exciting recipes, including Bangkok-style pan noodles and Pasta Alfredo with potato rice. 

“Rooty is a complete makeover for the potato, although, to me, potatoes have never really gone out of fashion,” Vihonen enthused. “Potatoes are a true Finnish superfood: delicious, nutritious and affordable. The new, innovative product gives potato the recognition it deserves in a whole new way.” 

Vöner 

a dish of plant-based kebab

Vöner is all about great taste, easiness of use and being kind to oneself and nature. Image: Facebook / Vöner

The story of Vöner started in 2017 when Siva Parlar, a Helsinki-based pizza restaurant owner, came up with an idea of a plant-based alternative to a traditional kebab. The result got jaws moving and, gradually, the innovative meat substitute made of wheat protein has found its way to supermarkets, restaurants and people’s kitchens in Finland and beyond. 

“There is nothing cooler than creating something from scratch that has never existed before, and Vöner is exactly that, both as a company and as a product,” Parlar noted. 

In addition to diligent product development resulting in great taste, Vöner focuses on being ecological and running the business in the most sustainable way possible. Since early 2021, the production has been solely domestic – something that the company’s CEO, Peter Westerholm, describes as “a matter of honour”.

Moreover, Vöner partnered last spring with Biocode, a Finnish company specialising in carbon footprint calculations, to assess greenhouse gas emissions for each product and find optimal ways to reduce and compensate them. 

 

a selection of oat-based yogurts

Mö’s production model is based on using solely plant-based ingredients, such as Finnish oats, and offsetting its own emissions. Image: Mö

Founded in 2017 by two sisters, Annamari and Marjaana Jukkola, Mö is Finland’s first and only pure oat dairy. Coming from a family of dairy farmers, the sisters realised the connection between food production and the climate crisis and had an urge to inspire change in the food industry by opting for more sustainable and environmentally friendly raw materials. 

“As I was doing my doctorate in food sciences, I found myself thinking more and more about how things could be done differently,” Annamari told. “Using a renewable ingredient in the traditional dairy process sounded very tempting to me.” 

Today, Mö offers dairy-free yogurts and other delicacies produced at its own factory in the village of Lohtaja, Central Ostrobothnia, using first-class Finnish oats. Also, Mö recently launched the world’s first oat-based Greek-style cheese, which can be used in a similar way to feta. 

“Mö wants to help our overloaded planet feed its inhabitants attractively, with good conscience,” the Jukkola sisters concluded. 

Meeat 

a burger with plant-based meat

With its plant-based meat substitutes, Meeat wants consumers to upgrade the way they eat and treat the planet. Image: Emerald Technology Ventures

On a mission to challenge the current food systems and reset people’s food norms, this Espoo-based startup produces a wide range of plant-based protein products using fermented fava beans and peas as the main ingredients. With more and more people concerned over the environmental impact of their food and their lifestyle choices, Meeat provides a convenient and tasty way to ditch the meaty stuff. 

“It’s no longer a fashion thing. For the younger generation, at least, a mixed diet is a matter of course,” noted CEO Mikko Karell. 

The company’s philosophy and business strategy have resonated well with domestic and international investors. In May, Meeat announced the closing of an eight million-euro funding round backed by Switzerland’s Emerald Technology Ventures, Finnish Industry Investment (Tesi) and KVKI Capital. Following the fundraising, Meeat has an eye on new markets such as Denmark, Germany and Benelux. 

“In Finland, Meeat has rapidly built a comprehensive portfolio of plant protein products that consumers have fallen in love with,” Karell commented. “We are thrilled to receive funding from investors with solid experience in innovative food companies, new technologies, brand building and internationalisation.” 

Ilo 

a carton container with hummus on a table

Sustainability in ingredients, sourcing and packaging is important to Ilo: for example, the brand’s hummus comes in environmentally friendly carton packages. Image: Jokilaakson Juusto

The Ilo-branded family of plant-based products by Jokilaakson Juusto has quite a fascinating history. Ilo hummus became in 2007 the first hummus produced and sold in Finland and one of the first in the European market. Right now, the product line also includes cashew-based delicacies, vegan spreads and plant-based cheeses. 

“We are continuously on the lookout for new trends, and developing and experimenting with them,” stated Esa Luomanperä, managing director of Jokilaakson Juusto. 

Ilo’s flavoursome plant-based dairy alternatives hit the spot also internationally: for example, Ilo Cashew Black Pepper, a gourmet vegan cream cheese made by hand at the company’s production facility in Jämsä, was shortlisted at the inaugural 2020 World Plant-Based Awards. 

“We invest in the development of plant-based products, and we have already started exporting,” Luomanperä commented. “The popularity of plant-based products is growing all over the world.” 

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