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Food and nutrition industry announces ambitious strategy: make Finland a forerunner in healthy nutrition

The joint strategy created by the Finnish food and nutrition sector was published.


Media release 9 May 2006

The joint strategy created by the Finnish food and nutrition sector was published at the Finnish Food Congress in Helsinki on 9 May 2006. The strategy is based on the common decision of the sector to make Finland a forerunner in healthy nutrition with a sharp competitive edge by 2015. The strategy was conceived as part of Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme, ERA, which aims at improving the competitiveness of the sector and promoting health.

Collaboration gives advantage

The strategy is an example of wide-ranging collaboration, involving the entire food and nutrition sector in Finland. It was contributed to by dozens of experts from primary production, research, large- as well as small- and medium-sized food industry companies, trade, public administration and national health organisations.

“This project saw co-operation that transcended boundaries in an unprecedented manner in this country,” says Harry Salonaho, Chairman of the Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation Board of Directors and President and CEO of Valio Ltd. He stresses that Finland is too small a country to afford wasting resources. Finland needs to make good choices, focus on the essential and encourage co-operation that is wider ranging, closer and longer lasting than before. Co-operation is the competitive advantage that will continue to bring Finland success in the future.

Competition in the sector will become stiffer and the national borders will create fewer and fewer restrictions to food exports. We need to specialise and show our expertise. Finland as well as the entire food chain wants to invest in healthiness, and create a strong nutrition cluster in the country.

More innovations and exports

According to Anu Harkki, Executive Director of Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme, ERA, the key issues in the strategy are innovations, increase in exports, efficient commercialisation of products, better utilisation of know-how and specialisation, as well as more focused research. Developing the co-operation with the authorities is also important.

“Finland has accomplished a lot in terms of the quality and traceability of food. The next thing is to strengthen the innovation chain. It needs to function more smoothly and have more ambitious objectives. That is the only way to boost exports, which are currently at a standstill,” says Harkki. “We should channel our know-how and excellent research performance towards more effective commercialisation. We wish to bring added value to basic Finnish food and to expand the markets for functional foods.”

The strategy process for the industry has come to label the growing product group in between basic and functional foods as ‘smart food’. “Health is highly rated today. Smart food – products, services and concepts – is also needed to reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases at home and abroad,” says Harkki.

The strategy proposes the establishment of a concentration of strategic expertise for the sector. This would enable consistent long-term development work, making Finland a global leader in health.

Co-operation across the sector

In addition to Sitra, the strategy was contributed to by the Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation, the food industry and trade, the National Public Health Institute, the Academy of Finland, the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Finpro and the Finnish Food Safety Authority. Several of the proposed measures will also require decisions from the authorities, the government and the Finnish Parliament.

The measures outlined in the report create a solid foundation for building a nutrition cluster in Finland. The cluster will eventually continue the co-operation in the food and nutrition sector and the implementation of its strategy, initiated by Sitra’s Food and Nutrition Programme, ERA, scheduled to terminate in 2009.

Further information:

Sitra, Food and Nutrition Programme ERA
Anu Harkki, Programme Director
Tel. +358 9 6189 9458, mobile +358 50 431 1651

Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation
Harry Salonaho, Chairman of the Board
Tel. +358 10 381 2001

The strategy report (pdf, in Finnish) »

A video showing the strategy publication on Finnish Food Congress: Seminars on the Web »

The Food and Nutrition Programme, ERA, is one of the six programme areas that Sitra is currently focusing on. The programme is prepared to make about ten venture-capital investments of a total value of €15–20 million in companies in the sector that have a capacity for growth and internationalisation. The programme also contributes to various development programmes in the field.

Smart food is a concept that covers healthy food and sensible eating habits. Foods classified as smart food have a favourable effect on people’s physical and mental well-being. Sensible eating habits are based on healthy choices; consumers make personal choices regarding food that is suitable for their well-being, tastes and the intended use. Smart food is ethical, clean, traceable, and it is based on reliable scientific evidence and product development. Smart food is packaged in a manner that is appropriate for the consumer, and its health-promoting effects are clearly communicated.