Big in Berlin – Selling Finnish Foods

The International Green Week or Grüne Woche was held on 18–27 January at Messe Berlin. Finland, this year’s main partner country, was highly visible both in the media as well as inside the exhibition hall. In 2018 the IGW attracted over 400,000 visitors to the world’s biggest food industry exposition.

Having changed my career from retail to restaurant industry in 2016, my focus was naturally in sales. What foods did Finland decide to sell? And what about German consumers, what were they interested in? What did we learn about exporting foods from Finland?

To begin with, the 80 or so companies in Hall 10.2 allocated to Finland were mostly small players. The biggest food industry corporations were not represented which raised some discussion both in Berlin and Finland. However, it provided an excellent chance for even one-person companies to really advance their businesses. During my five work days I got to know many interesting entrepreneurs.

I assisted Hakamaan lammastila, a farm in Central Finland, in their sales. They offered sustainably produced conserves made from Finnish berries and apples that were left over from locals’ backyards – that should put the Nimbys in their place. The farm’s employees are also payed fairly.

Hakamaan lammastila’s sustainability expands to taking responsibility over the health of their customers. Their conserves contain only 15 per cent sugar which turned out to be a huge selling point for German consumers.

The enthusiasm of Markku Liias, the Managing Director from Jukolan Juusto, was catching as he strived to improve his sales every day during the IGW. The same attitude was found also in Hakamaan lammastila. We realised from day one how handing out tasters was the key to attract potential buyers. Eventually we decided standing behind the counter wasn’t enough – we had to take it to the aisles!

Giving tasters worked!

Berry-related products seemed to be largely represented not only in Hall 10.2 but also in the other Nordic countries’ exhibition stands. I tasted quite a few of them but wasn’t really impressed until I discovered Luonnon Magiaa, a promising Finnish company that produces berry syrups with incredibly powerful, complex flavours. Being proud of their products certainly helped Nina Abraitis and Jukka Mäkelä of Luonnon Magiaa in their sales efforts. Other interesting products featured in the IGW were Kuura Ice Cider, Aito Oat Drink, Biocode and different gins.

Some Finnish foods had even found their way to the department store KaDeWe. In spite of attractive displays I wouldn’t say there really was a buzz around the Finnish foods featured in the Aus der Wildnis section as there was no sales representative during my visit. Personal selling does make a difference.

Helsinki Distilling Company in KaDeWe

As a student of sustainable gastronomy and a restaurant industry professional, the Bryggeri Helsinki Restaurant in the middle of Finland’s exhibition hall caught my attention. The restaurant was the result of cooperation of the Finnish Culinary Team, the brewery-restaurant Bryggeri Helsinki and MTK, the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners. The restaurant did a wonderful job in spreading the word about Finnish gastronomy.

Culinary Team Finland
Sea-buckthorn mousse, liquorice-caramel ice cream and marinated sea-buckthorn dessert in Bryggeri Helsinki Restaurant

I take great pride to be Finnish. We have an extraordinary amount of forests and clean nature, a great number of sustainable food companies and most importantly, a promising future that the confidence of our small producers verifies.

Text and pictures: Jouni Koskinen