When public limited company Itikka-Lihapolar starts operating, Finland is experiencing the deepest recession in its history. Unemployment is high and consumers have very little money to spend. The massive food factory completed in Nurmo in spring 1992 has cost Itikka almost 400 million Finnish markkas. The company’s total liabilities exceed one billion markkas. The new company also has many expensive, overlapping functions. It is in dire need of reorganisation.
At the same time, Finland decides to join the EU. People working in the meat sector estimate that in a deregulated market, the share of imported meat – particularly Danish meat – could rise to 30 per cent of Finland’s meat supply and prices could halve. Finnish meat would then drop to the second place.
“This was the only time when I thought it would be awful to look in the mirror and realise that I’m the director who steered this company into the rocks,” CEO Seppo Paatelainen said later, describing his feelings.
“The frightening thought that this great industrial plant could in the future stand as a memorial to Finnish agriculture is not foreign either,” says Reino Penttilä, chairman of Itikka-Lihapolar’s board of directors, in his speech at the opening of the Nurmo food factory in spring 1992.
In the early days of its operations, Itikka-Lihapolar is the big ship of the Finnish meat industry that is close to sinking, nearly touching ground. Only a few years later, the ship is much lighter and sailing at full speed.