Valio gains multi-million Business Finland funding for product innovation

Finnish industry business Valio has unveiled plans for an extensive research, development and innovation project called Food 2.0, across its portfolio, which has previously included development of chocolate and ice-cream product ranges, writes Neill Barston.

The dairy specialist has gained a €10 million grant from government organisation Business Finland’s challenge competition for leading companies, with the body set to unleash a further €20 million in connected projects for the five-year sector-wide venture.

As Confectionery Production has previously covered, the business has been at the forefront of delivering some intriguing sector developments, including using AI to help create a new range of reduced-sugar chocolate, as well as delivering new milk protein concentrates for use in ice-cream and desserts.

Moreover, as the company explained, for its latest venture, it is set to initiate and lead wide-ranging cooperation as well as research and development projects with its current and new partners. Hundreds of companies and other operators are connected to the food system in Finland, and the goal is to have at least one hundred partners in the network. Valio’s and the ecosystem’s goal is to invest €100 million more in research and development activities over five years and to increase exports connected to the food system by more than €1 billion in the following years after the project has ended. Valio is the first food company that Business Finland has chosen as a leading company.

“It is important that we reform the food system with all the actors involved, as that is the only way that we will succeed in the change. The global transformation of food production is also an opportunity for Finnish production, as global demand for food and the importance of northern production areas are growing. By being a forerunner in sustainable food production, we can create added value for food produced in Finland while improving its profitability and international competitiveness,” said Tuomas Salusjärvi, EVP, Growth Businesses and R&D at Valio.

“Business Finland wants to be strongly involved in the work aimed at reforming the food system. All our services contribute to strengthening the goals set by this project”, added Business Finland Director-General Nina Kopola.

Major industry changes

As the business noted, current global food supply chain is facing challenges: the world’s population is growing, and the need for food is estimated to double by 2050. Extreme weather conditions, especially droughts, will increase with climate change in areas where majority of food is currently produced. Therefore, the importance of northern regions, such as Finland, in food production is growing. Recent global crises, such as the coronavirus pandemic and Russian aggression in Ukraine, disrupt food supply chains and threaten the security of supply. The world situation has also raised the prices of key inputs such as fertilisers and energy. This is why primary producers are struggling with unprecedented profitability challenges in Finland.

At the same time, the environmental impact of food production must be reduced. The entire food system – both plant and animal production – must operate more comprehensively in accordance with the principles of circular economy and resource efficiency.

“At the same time, we need to solve the profitability challenge of food production, meet the demands of the growing export markets and move towards more sustainable production methods. A new, more sustainable food system will build growth for food exports and also create new export opportunities, for example, in circular economy and digitalisation solutions. Rethinking the food system is also essential for the environment and food security,” says Salusjärvi.


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