“Consumption of vegan products is growing at a rate of 8% per year globally. We are planning on keeping up with this pace,” says Managing Director Esa Luomanperä from Finnish Cheese Company Ltd (Jokilaakson Juusto Oy).
Cheese has strong traditions in Jämsä. It all started when the sale of cheese began in self-service shops in the 1960s. According to the new shopping style, cheese blocks needed to be available to consumers already packaged. Therefore, the packaging of cheese for retail shops began in the premises of Jämsä Co-operative Dairy in 1970. Later, Valio continued the operations by building a new cheese packaging plant in Jämsä. An important foundation for constructing the packaging plant was the city’s favourable location in the middle of the country. At best, Valio’s packaging plant employed 120 people.
Decades passed and the economic cycle changed. The packaging of cheese ended in Jämsä in 1997. Losing more than 100 jobs was a big loss for the city. Jämsä’s story as a cheese city seemed to end until Finnish Cheese Company started its operations at the beginning of the century.
“We had our official opening in 2004,” says Managing Director Esa Luomanperä.
Business operations with a solid foundation
Finnish Cheese Company is innovated and hosted by Esa Luomanperä. He started the business operations based on strong experience as he has both studied and made his career in cheese. For example, he was involved in building the success story of Viola soft cheese in the Russian markets in the 1990s.
Finnish Cheese Company Ltd is a cheese-processing company. Borrowing an expression from cooks, cheese gets a new twist in Jämsä.
“We do not actually produce cheese from the beginning. From the start, the business idea has been to process cheese in two different units. One unit produces grated cheese and the other one produces soft cheeses and spreads.
Competition for popularity among consumers is tough in the industry. Thus, Finnish Cheese Company keeps a close eye on consumption trends in Finland and abroad. Today’s trend is vegetarian products.
“The consumption of vegan spreads is growing at a rate of 8% per year.
Consumers favour vegetarian products
As a response to the demand for plant-based products, Finnish Cheese Company has created a vegan product line. It carries the name Ilo. The products’ raw materials include oats, broad beans, nuts and coconut milk.
“We do not use any raw materials of animal origin in our Ilo products. The newest result of our development is the nut-based Cashew White Mold,” Luomanperä says, describing the product line.
The product was selected as the audience favourite in an organic product competition at Finlandia Hall in early October.
“We launched the product in September. It’s hand-made in Jämsä and perfect for the cheese plate as a vegan alternative for a traditional white mould cheese.”
Product development work is the foundation of vegan products. It’s important to create products that please the consumer in appearance, taste and aesthetics.
Esa Luomanperä proudly presents: Ilo Cashew White Mold is a nut-based delicacy for the cheese plate. It was also the audience’s favourite in the European Organic Food Innovation Award competition.
Cheese will always have friends
Raw materials for Finnish Cheese Company’s products come from Finland and abroad. The company collaborates with various suppliers of raw materials.
“Our oats are fully Finnish, but in terms of other raw materials, there are just not enough of them in Finland for our production needs.”
Even though the consumption of vegetarian products is growing, traditional milk-based cheese spreads also have their friends. Finnish Cheese Company’s products are sold as semi-finished products for the industry as well as in consumer packages in retail shops.
“Our own cheese spread brand is called Silva. We also produce products under the shops’ own brands.
A growing business in a good location
Finnish Cheese Company employs 27 people. The company’s operations have grown and expanded year after year. Soon, it will need to start looking for additional premises. For example, the company is currently introducing a new packaging line.
“From the beginning of next year, we are planning on switching to two work shifts, so we need additional personnel. Even though the Russian markets are currently completely stalled, we are planning new openings in Central Europe,” the Managing Director explains.
And in terms of location, Luomanperä still thinks that Jämsä is a central location for entrepreneurs. Transport connections are open in all directions.