Sales Managers Seppo Pellikka, Tuomas Viita and Jani Vänskä at Atria Finland specialise in exports to Asia. They believe that pure, safe and traceable foods are key to success, even in an increasingly tough competitive environment.
“These aspects are not self-evident in Asia,” say the three experts. They say products from Finland are attracting a great deal of interest in Asia.
“People are fascinated by our pure nature, lakes, forests and winters, as well as Lapland,” says Pellikka.
“The contrast with Asian metropolises is enormous: Finland is regarded as exotic for many reasons, including our small population,” Vänskä explains.
In trading with Asia, partnerships and personal contacts are crucial. Videoconferencing is not an option – meetings are always held face-to-face. Visits and return visits are also important.
Sales Manager Seppo Pellikka has just seen his visitor from faraway off at the airport. The warm and sunny early autumn was a new experience for the visitor.
“Based on their previous visits, they thought it was always cold and grey here,” Pellikka says with a laugh. According to Pellikka, it’s important to meet customers face-to-face and show them how Atria operates on site.
He is responsible for Atria’s trade with South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Pellikka has more than five years’ experience in exports to Asia. South Korea is Atria’s largest export destination. The company has been trading with South Korea for decades.
Atria mainly exports pork loin to South Korea. It’s steamed to make Korean ribs, a popular dish.
“Our customers include two restaurant chains with a total of 400 restaurants. The taste and fat structure are ideal for them. The main factors affecting taste and structure are the feeding, conditions and welfare of the animals across the production chain,” Pellikka explains. He says there is more demand for Atria’s products in Korea than the company currently supplies.
“We are close to the end customer, which is important in a tough competitive environment.”
Sales Manager Jani Vänskä is responsible for Atria’s trade with China. He joined the export team in November 2016, having returned from China, where he had worked in sales in the paper industry for 13 years.
“I was familiar with the country, but Atria’s products were new to me. We basically started from scratch. At that point, we had just received the necessary permits and were starting the productisation process.”
Tuomas Viita was then serving as productisation project manager for China.
“It was great to get Jani on the team. He knew how to deal with Chinese bureaucracy, and he can also write Chinese,” says Viita.
Vänskä says the Chinese market is congested at the moment.
“China is suffering from serious overcapacity after two years of intense capacity building across the country. Growth must be sought closer to retailers and consumers. It’s a long road,” says Vänskä. However, he says that the demand for some of Atria’s products is higher than the company is currently able to supply.
Into new markets
Viita joined the export team in March and focuses on the Japanese market. The first thing he did was to seek contacts at a food trade fair in Japan with a colleague and through Atria’s exhibition stand.
“We haven’t traded with Japan for ten years, but we are now re-entering the market. The first batch of pork leg bones is expected to be shipped before the end of this year,” Viita says.
However, the work has only just begun, as shipping products to Japan after a long break requires great effort with the authorities, for example.
“The most important thing is to get things going and the paperwork done. Then we will learn as we go.”
Pork leg bones are used to make bouillon. The Japanese are also interested in pork sirloin and loin, as well as back fat for meat products.
Atria is also exploring opportunities to export poultry to Japan and South Korea, and beef to Japan.
“We filed our permit application five years ago, and our hopes are very high at the moment,” Pellikka explains.
The team works hard and enjoys success together. It is headed by Markku Hirvijärvi, Senior Vice President, Industrial and Export Operations. The other half of Atria’s exports go to Europe, America and Africa. Sales Managers Esa Mäki and Hanna Holtinkoski are responsible for these destinations.
Good opportunities for development
Jani Vänskä, who joined the export team from another company, is impressed with how Atria works.
“I’ve worked for a lot of companies, and I must say that Atria is excellent. I don’t know if it’s because of their Ostrobothnian heritage, but people are fair and straightforward and keep their promises,” Jani says.
Viita and Pellikka have been with Atria for a long time and have served in several units. They feel Atria is the best workplace for them for many reasons, including career development opportunities.
“I think that’s why people like it here, and employee turnover is low,” says Vänskä.
“Our employer supports us, trusts us and offers us opportunities,” says Viita.
“Of course, you need to be proactive, and Atria makes this possible. There is always something new to learn in exports,” Pellikka concludes.