In Finland, such is the love for copious quantities of liquorice, there’s a sweet known as ‘metre liquorice’, metrilaku. The colourful, overgrown sweets are a familiar sight at every summer event and most food markets – and a very common purchase for anyone attending those happenings.
Makulaku from Porvoo, southern Finland, is responsible for almost all metrilaku manufacturing in Finland. Previously, Makulaku produced unbranded liquorice in bulk, but according to export director Jorma Alanen, the direction has shifted to Makulaku branded products. With a fistful of new items on offer, Makulaku will not only brighten up the sweet shelves in Finland, but also hit the international market with a super sugar rush.
“At the moment, about half of all production is exported, but the percentage is growing,” Alanen says. “There is plenty of potential in the international market, and we’re constantly looking for new distributors.”
However, Makulaku isn’t after quick fixes and flash sales. The company wants to establish its presence for good, be it in a small sweet shop in Japan or a huge hypermarket in the US.
Tasty and trendy in the same bite
Makulaku started out as a family business back in 1994. Some 20 years later, it was acquired by Makua Foods, a Finnish food company that produces and imports a wide range of food items in and to Finland. These days, Makulaku employs over 70 people.
Recently, Makulaku invested in a new high tech production line, with the intent to introduce various new products this year. The new machinery not only enables versatile and imaginative sweets, but also doubles the facility’s production capacity.
“With these modern facilities, we can create state-of-the-art sweets,” Alanen explains. “We’ve been able to utilise Makulaku’s traditional strengths, further improve the taste and pack products of exceptional shapes and sizes.”
Some of the new products have already found their way to supermarkets both in Finland and abroad. ‘Monkey Tails’ are of signature Makulaku style: eye-catchingly colourful, long liquorice stripes with various flavour combinations.
Another newcomer hits two growing trends: Makulaku has rebranded its organic and vegan filled liquorices as ‘Happy Reindeer’. Alanen tells that the recreation of the familiar product has been very export-oriented, and it has also already been very well received by the Finnish audience.
Vegan products in particular have seen their sales skyrocket in the past few years. According to Alanen’s knowledge, Makulaku is the only brand that offers filled liquorice that satisfies the cravings of all persuasions.
Fighting the stereotype with flavour
In Finland, being able to say your product is made within the country’s borders is a strong selling point. In the case of liquorice, it can be so abroad, too. Alanen notes that Finland is internationally known for its expertise in liquorice.
At the moment, Makulaku sweets are available in about 20 countries. More will be added to the list, and the company is looking into recruiting more people to boosts international networks and sales.
Alanen believes the biggest growth potential to lie in North America, the UK and Asian countries, but every country poses new possibilities.
Alanen believes that Monkey Tails are attractive in the highly competitive international markets due to their distinctive long shape, play value and candy-like colours.
“New Makulakus are so colourful that they’re more tempting to many consumers looking for delicious, more sweet-like candy than conventional liquorice,” Alanen says. “The recipes are a result of long-term development. Products are tasty and simple, and artificial colours and flavours are minimised on purpose.”