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Finland scores with organic oat flakes

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

As well as blueberries and raspberries, oats are one of the crops that grow especially well in Europe’s Nordic regions. “The oat grains are particularly well developed, have a lovely golden-yellow colour, with thin husks, and they thrive abundantly in our cool summers with their extra long Nordic days. The yield is high and remains constant year on year,” explains Markku Mikola, the Senior Manager, R & D of the manufacturer Fazer Mill & Mixes. The company takes the oats of 150 Finnish organic farmers and manufactures from them around a dozen different organic products for both the domestic market and export. Organic-Market.Info went to Finland for you and visited the Fazer mill and an organic farmer who supplies Fazer.

(Picture: View from the silo tower on the Fazer Mills&Mixes mill in Lahti, 100 km north of Helsinki)

Not only oats but also wheat and in particular rye play an important role in Finland, because the Finns eat a lot of rye bread. From these three organic cereals companies produce and market various grades of oat, wheat and rye flakes. With organic wheat they produce fine flour for bread and bakery goods; in the case of rye, the whole kernels are milled for whole-grain bread. 9 % of the farmed land in Finland is managed organically, so there is a sufficient quantity of cereals for processing. Investing in a new oat mill, Fazer entered the market with organic oat flakes in 2013. (Picture: Fazer bag, just filled with flour)
Fazer began producing organic rye flour as early as 1986. Actually  it was Fazer Mill & Mixes’ current Director Pekka Mäki-Reinikka who already then initiated the organic business. At the end of the 1990s, they diversified into wheat flour, and today they mill 3,000 t of organic oats, 3,000 t of organic rye and 1,000 t of organic wheat every year. In 10 kg, 20 kg and 25 kg sacks or in big bags of 800 to 1000 kg, the flour and flakes are dispatched to bakeries, canteens, wholesalers and processors. Half of all oat flakes exported by Fazer are organic. Exports go mainly to Germany, France, Uk, Sweden, Spain and Italy, plus a currently small volume to Asia. Fazer Mills & Mixes is actively looking for new export customers and works together with Erkki Pöytäniemi at Organic Food Finland to develop their organic export further. (Picture from left to right: Jarkko Arrajoki, Pekka Mäki-Reinikka, Markku Mikola, Erkki Pöytäniemi)   

(Picture: Jarkko Arrajoki explains the flow of goods in the mill, quality control, digital machine monitoring and flow of control) 

The milling company Fazer Mill & Mixes was launched in 1971 in the city of Lahti, 100 km north of the capital Helsinki for supplying the Fazer bakeries with flour. Today the mill has a daily processing capacity of 660 t, and every year it processes 150,000 t of grain. There is a constant stream of lorries arriving five days a week with cereals for the round-the-clock processing operations. They tip their load into a shaft at the bottom of a 62 m high silo. At the same time, at a building on the opposite side, 40 t trucks with trailers for food transport are loaded with the flour to be delivered to customers. In Finland, Fazer is the market leader in the milling business, bakery products and confectionery sector. One of its most important products is the ca. 3 mm thick dark-brown crisp bread. Fazer is one of the major operators in these sectors in Scandinavia, the Baltic countries and Russia. (Picture: Flour transporter - trailer trucks transport up to 40 t)


In 1886 Karl Fazer, the founder of the present-day corporation, came from Switzerland to Finland, which at that time, was a Russian protectorate. He opened a café in Helsinki in 1891 that charged really low prices because his aim was volume selling, i.e. a low margin but a high customer throughput, without compromising on excellent quality. Over the years, he established more cafés.

In the 1930s, a friend gave him a Swiss chocolate recipe, which was the origin of the Finnish cult brand Fazer Blue, whose 190 gram chocolate bars are on sale today. At the beginning of the 1960s, they began producing bread for toasting, and from 1980 came the
internationalization phase. +They exported to markets in neighbouring Scandinavian countries, Denmark and the Baltic states. The company slogan was then, and still is, “Create taste sensations”. (Picture: The historic café, opened by Karl Fazer in 1891 in Helsinki, is still the number one in the city)

Today, Fazer is an international group. Its rapid growth can be attributed primarily to confectionery, the bakery products in all the counties mentioned above and to the company’s food service (catering) in Finland, Sweden and Denmark.  Environment and responsibility are core values of the company. The 58-page company report for 2013 refers to its environment audit. The report documents a decrease in the amount of electricity and water used by the company and a reduction in the waste per unit of production. The effort to save resources was most successful in the case of electricity, with consumption falling from 588,680 MW/h to 566,385 MW/h, despite an increase in production. Calculated per tonne of goods produced, energy consumption fell from 0.98 to 0.93 MW/h, in other words by over 5 % in one year. A Corporate Responsibility Programme catalogues the aims and success of the company’s commitment to the environment and its social responsibility towards employees and customers. The total turnover resulting from all Fazer’s economic activities amounted to €1.7bn in 2013. The profit recorded by the family-owned company was €49m. Turnover grew by 2.3 %, and the number of employees rose slightly to 15,595.     

In Finland alone, Fazer operates 650 company restaurants, in Sweden 186, in Denmark 160 and in Norway 126, with 450,000 people receiving a midday meal every day. It operates 15 cafés in Sweden and seven in Finland, plus a number of bakery shops. The three confectionery factories, where chocolate and bonbons are produced, are all located in the south of Finland. Fazer bakeries are located in Finland, Sweden, the Baltic States and Russia. 

Aino Eskola is one of the suppliers of cereals to Fazer. She is 29 years old and in 2010 took over the farm of her father, who in the mid 1990s had converted to organic. The graduate in environmental engineering doesn’t keep cattle but concentrates solely on cereal production and, in recent years, also on a plantation of apple trees in order to diversify. On three hectares she has planted 2,700 apple trees with dozens of varieties of apple, although Jubiljar, Afrodita and Uslada predominate. These are Russian hardy cultivars that are resistant to apple scab. (Picture: Eskola family)

Later, when the trees produce a crop, the apples will go for processing. “This year we brought in a good harvest of fully ripe and dry cereals,” says a delighted Aino Eskola. But that’s not always the case. In most years they have to use the drying facility to dry the crop to below 14 % moisture content before it can be stored in one of two warehouses. That is why all cereal farms in Finland have direct access to a grain dryer where the grain is taken directly from the field. 130 t of cereals are kept in big silos until the next stage, when the cereals are taken as needed to the big mill of the firm Fazer, that is only 15 km away and when, as Aino adds with a wink, the price is right. As a rule, the price fluctuates between 200 and 300 euros a tonne for organic oats. (Picture: Aino Eskola and her husband standing in front of their house, that was built in 1906)  

The rotation they operate on the 50 ha farm: two years of red clover, followed by three years of cereals – rye, barley and oats. Whereas in the first two years the clover is a source of nitrogen in the soil, in the second and third years of growing cereals they fertilise with manure from a nearby cattle breeding station. Frau Eskola’s farmhouse, standing alone surrounded by their land, is about 100 km north of the Finnish capital. A few years ago, her father built a chapel entirely of timber on a rocky outcrop on the top of a hill in the vicinity. All their neighbours gather there at Christmas to celebrate. You can hardly believe that the chapel can hold as many as 200 people! (Picture: Aino Eskola in front of her father's chapel)  


Fazer Mill & Mixes    
Organic Food Finland

Contact for organic products from Fazer Mill & Mixes: Organic Food Finland:
Erkki Pöytäniemi, email here





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