An increase in vegetable-oriented diets has been one of the trends of recent years. A great many consumers eat more vegetables and eat meat less often than before. In Finland, there are about 1.6 million of these “flexitarians”, as they are sometimes called.
Even so, given our hectic everyday lives, few of us are ready to rethink our menus entirely. Instead, consumers want products that allow them to easily increase the amount of vegetables they use, without compromising on taste.
This international change has also been noticed in food companies.
– The trend was evident by early 2017. Entry into the vegetable category began to be visible internationally in the strategies of food companies, which had many projects concerning meatless products, says Pasi Luostarinen, head of Atria Plc’s marketing and market research.
– Of course, meatless products already had a long history. Examples include spinach pancakes in Finland and the vegetarian meal Dagens Rätt Grönt in Sweden.
The start of an international project
Vegyu’s beginnings date to March 2017, when Atria Plc’s Management Team decided to establish a project for a group-wide concept of meatless products.
Atria Finland had already launched a project focused on vegetable-based foods in Finland, and at the same time Atria Sweden was about to launch a similar initiative.
In the end, the business areas opted for a common concept and brand.
– The concept was found to work in several countries, so for cost-related reasons we decided to focus on a single brand. The leading idea was to come up with something concrete and finished. Finding a common name that could be registered in all of the countries involved and throughout the EU was a completely different story.
– By combining the projects we created a lot of positive synergy, such as cost savings. These gave us the chance to invest in functional communication and the consideration of consumer wishes”, adds Johanna Linnros, Atria Sweden’s head of marketing.
The actual working group was composed of ten people – one from the group, 3–4 from both Finland and Sweden and one from Denmark. In addition, more than ten people took part in local productisation in both Finland and Sweden.
The development phase involved a number of challenges and the need to find a common tune for the work to be done.
– Things are done differently in different countries and fitting these ways of working together in an entirely new concept required some work”, says Atria Finland’s head of product development, Anu Saranpää.
– The Finnish way of working is more systematic and process-driven, in a positive way. We Swedes have a lot to learn from this. But in international work, we get to challenge established truths, which allows fresh thinking. And this allows for richer brand building.
– We gained a lot of new perspectives into internal cooperation and got to know our skilful colleagues in the neighbouring countries, of course, says Saranpää.
A common tune was found by way of a joint analysis of market and consumer situations. They revealed consumer and customer needs, for which there were joint answers. Once the team members had arrived at a common view, it was easier to start thinking about content and to differentiate it for the purposes of country-specific needs.
There was lot to do, and the project was not without its peculiar twists and turns. During one of their visits to Stockholm, the Finnish delegation was stopped by customs officials twice – both on their way in, due to the food samples they were carrying, and on their way out, due to poorly frozen freezer packs, which were confiscated by Swedish customs officials.
From consumer wishes to the plate
Vegyu was launched in Finland on 28 August, both for retail sales and for commercial kitchens. From the very start, it received plenty of attention in traditional as well as on social media. In Sweden, the new product range will be launched next year.
Building up an entirely new product range, from consumer expectations all the way to the plate, was an extremely rewarding effort for the working group.
And this is only the beginning. We’re a modern company with international goals, which we’ll achieve with group-wide cooperation, says Linnros.
Developing a new product range requires a lot of know-how. The members of the international working group (from left, Peter Aalbeck, Bjarne Siersbaek, Pasi Luostarinen, Åsa Josell, Salla Eklund, Sanna Päällysaho, Anu Saranpää, Sofia Saapunki and Anna-Maija Juvonen) introduced the range of Vegyu flavours in Helsinki.