Apetit innovation and investment drives expansion in plant-based products

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Apetit is launching a new line of meat-free products in Sweden as part of its NPD drive
Apetit is launching a new line of meat-free products in Sweden as part of its NPD drive
Finnish food group Apetit is increasing production of its plant-based products as it eyes increased domestic market share and higher export sales.

The company is investing €9.7m in doubling production of its patties and balls at its Säkylä plant. The facility will produce fish based patties and balls as well as “new vegetable-based value added products”, the group revealed.

Construction of a new production line begins in August and production is slated to start next summer.

Rapid growth supported by innovation

Apetit has seen “rapid growth​” in demand for patties and balls, with an average annual growth rate of around 20%.

Expansion has been supported by innovation, investor relations head Sanna Väisänen told FoodNavigator.

“For retail consumers we offer about 100 frozen food, 25 fresh food and ready meal products as well as some 10 vegetable oils. In our HoReCa business we have some 100 fresh food products and 120 frozen food products. Since 2016 the level of new product launches have been record high. Renewal is one of the focus areas in our strategy and we aim to provide continuous flow of interesting products for consumers.

“From our business point of view it is crucial to be able to provide new innovative added value products.”

As part of this innovation drive – and its push for greater “internationalisation”​ – the group is launching a range of five free-from products in Sweden “in the near future​”, Väisänen revealed.

Domestic and export growth

Apetit’s innovation efforts are allowing it to grow market share domestically as well as fueling overseas expansion.

“Our main market area is Finland and from volume perspective. It is also the fastest growing market. And we are growing faster than market in general,” ​Väisänen noted. However, she added that the group is seeing ”material growth”​ in its international markets – the Nordics, Russia and Asia.

“The sale of frozen foods in the St Petersburg region was launched last year with a Finnish retail chain Prisma. Recently this spring we have started to supply our products also to Lenta stores in Russia. Lenta is one of Russia’s largest retail store chains.

“Apetit’s biggest export product by volume is currently the Finnish pea. Peas are exported to Italy, Sweden and Greece, and in Asia to China and Taiwan. The export of peas has recently increased dramatically.

“In addition to peas there is increased interest in our added value products internationally as well. When it comes to volumes … international food trade has already grown over the past few years, as its share in January-March 2018 had already equalled that of the full year in 2016.”

Health, sustainability and taste

Underpinning Apetit’s innovation and product development initiatives are growing consumer interest in health and sustainability.

The group is also benefitting from the increasing adoption of plant-based protein alternatives.

“Health and especially sustainability are the key drivers for sure. We see that flexitarianism will grow more than pure vegetarianism. And this is also important for us from business point of view because of bigger volumes," ​Väisänen said.

Of course, the other key aspect of Apetit’s innovation initiatives is its focus on producing good tasting, high quality products.

“We always underline the taste as the most important matter in eating. If it is not good, you don’t eat it. If it is good you eat it and repeat your purchase more likely.” 

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