When Atria acquires Swedish Lithells in 1997, it becomes the largest meat company in the Nordic countries. The meat processor now employs more than 3,300 people and posts net sales of over 3.3 billion Finnish markkas. One third of its net sales comes from Sweden and export trade.
At the time of the acquisition, the Swedish meat industry is experiencing a similar turmoil that was seen in Finland half a decade earlier. Free trade brought by the EU and competition between increasingly global retail chains pose great challenges for producer-driven meat companies. The co-operative Scan Group has been Sweden’s biggest meat sector company. Lithells and Sardus have been the largest private companies.
Major reorganisations are set in motion in Sweden, with Finnish Atria and its CEO Seppo Paatelainen as one of the prime movers. According to Paatelainen, Atria’s leaders also looked into the acquisition of Sardus as part of a plan for Atria to grow substantially in the Baltic Sea region.
By acquiring the company founded by Oskar Lithell, Atria gains possession of one of Sweden’s most valued brands, Sibylla . Over the years, this sausage brand has grown into Sweden’s second largest fast-food chain after McDonald’s. The Sibylla concept is also rapidly expanding outside Sweden, and it already has outlets in nine European countries. Atria’s step into Sweden also means a leap into the global fast food market.