For decades, the development and growth of the co-operative slaughterhouses had been obstructed by the division into regions and territories supervised by the central organisation owned by the co-operatives, Tuottajain Lihakeskuskunta (TLK). It defined the areas of operation, ‘home provinces’, within which the co-operatives had to stay. Competition was not free nationally. TLK also negotiated important export deals with the Soviet Union and handled nationwide marketing for the co-operatives.
In addition, TLK had its own industrial operations. It had acquired a meat company called Helsingin Kauppiaat (HK) in the 1970s. Northern Finnish co-operatives felt that TLK was mostly protecting the interests of Southern Finland. The conflict with Itikka in particular escalated when TLK began to build a large meat processing plant in Vantaa when at the same time Itikka’s food factory was being constructed in Nurmo. A clash with the central organisation was inevitable, and TLK’s dismantling was set in motion.
The core group pushing for TLK’s closure consists of the leaders of Itikka-Lihapolar, the company established by Itikka and Lihakunta the previous year: CEO Seppo Paatelainen, deputy CEO Paavo Jauhiainen and chairman Reino Penttilä. After a complex operation that attracts widespread publicity and has strong political overtones, TLK is dismantled. Towards the end of the operation, south-western Finnish LSO also begins to support the dissolution.
As a result, TLK is converted to HK Oy and sold to LSO. This is the beginning of the company that will be known as HK Ruokatalo. The most valuable asset obtained by Itikka-Lihapolar from TLK is the well-known Atria brand, to which the company is granted exclusive right.
The dismantling of the central organisation removes the greatest obstacle to free competition between meat companies and opens the gate wide for Itikka-Lihapolar to enter Southern Finnish shops, department stores and institutional kitchens.