Raisio and Dr. Schär have signed a long-term framework agreement that will form the basis of the strategic alliance. In a joint statement, the companies said they are exploring opportunities for “extensive collaboration” in areas including product development and manufacturing.
Speaking to FoodNavigator, Raisio CEO Pekka Kuusniemi said both companies have similar strategies, taking an international approach to carve out leadership in niche categories.
“It will be an interesting journey together. From the first meeting in the autumn of last year, we found we are on the same frequency. Both companies are international but with a specialist focus. We want to be better than the competition in that niche,” he observed.
“Dr. Schär is a very good company with a niche strategy. We are specialists in Finnish oats. Oats are a natural ingredient and are also gluten-free. We have a very good touch point between [Dr. Schär’s] gluten-free expertise and our insight in oats. We believe together we can make good progress, for example serving consumers who want gluten-free products, a group that is growing.”
Kuusniemi said it is currently “too early to speculate” exactly what products and categories will form the collaborative innovation effort.
However, he added, alongside oats – which Raisio offers under the Elovena range – the group expects its expertise in cholesterol lowering products should unlock additional areas for innovation.
Raisio currently produces cholesterol lowering products, from yoghurt and spreads to bars, under the Benecol brand.
“Innovation will focus on gluten-free and I expect we will find some new applications with cholesterol lowering through our Benecol brand. I hope we will find new ways to help consumers lower their cholesterol,” he explained.
Dr. Schär and Raisio also stand to benefit from their complementary geographic reach, with plans for Raisio products to be fed into Dr. Schär’s distribution channels in continental Europe. Kuusniemi sees particular potential for this arrangement to support higher Raisio sales in France, Italy, Germany and Spain.
“These are markets where Raisio is not present today and that opens a nice prospect,” he commented, adding that there are not currently any plans to distribute Dr. Schär products via Raisio’s sales channels.
However, commenting on the tie-up Dr. Schär’s CEO, Ulrich Ladurner, would benefit its distribution network. “The strategic alliance with Raisio is an important step for us as it will enable us to further develop and strengthen our distribution network. In addition, Raisio’s value brands will complete our portfolio,” he noted.
Alongside its gluten-free portfolio, since 2014 Dr. Schär has developed and commercialised special products in the field of medical nutrition.