1996

Lighter ship sails at full speed

The company, now called Atria, prospers and grows, albeit after a tough period of reorganisation. Inexpensive imported meat, enabled by the EU, does not take over the shops after all: Finnish consumers favour Finnish meat. 

Market leader ready for the EU

When Finland joins the European Union in 1995, Finnish meat production and processing does not collapse – despite such fears. Although imports of foreign meat increase and retail prices of meat products fall considerably, Atria comes out a winner and becomes the country’s leading meat industry company.  Its success is based on determined reorganisation and Finnish consumers’ preferences.

Atria – then Itikka-Lihapolar – eliminates overlapping functions and reduces costs by implementing an extensive reorganisation programme. As a consequence, only three out of eleven production plants remain in operation: Nurmo, Kuopio and Kauhajoki.

The first plant to be shut down is a pig slaughterhouse in Oulu right after the merger of Itikka and Lihapolar in 1991. A slaughterhouse and cutting department in Ylivieska are the last plants closed in 1996. Jobs are lost in the provinces.

“Without these moves, Atria would not be what it is today. We were also building something new at the same time,” says Juha Gröhn [linkki vuoteen 2011: Oman talon mies siirtyy johtoon], business development manager and later CEO of Atria, who led the taxing negotiations.

In addition to the reorganisation programme and the new factory in Nurmo, Atria’s success is contributed to by Finnish consumers.

“It seems it is more important to Finns to eat Finnish food than we anticipated,” Esko Aho, then prime minister, describes.

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Atria’s sausage loop is the first packed food to be awarded the Hyvää Suomesta (Produce of Finland) label with a swan and the Finnish flag.

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In the mid-1990s, Atria CEO Seppo Paatelainen could already smile openly. Under his leadership, the company had been put in better shape for the EU than its competitors. It also seemed that Atria was going to win the long and bitter power struggle between co-operative slaughterhouses, as Helsingin Sanomat, the leading Finnish daily newspaper, wrote.

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