Transparent operations are essential in the food sector, particularly in the meat industry. CEO Juha Gröhn, how would you describe the significance of openness and responsible conduct in general to Atria’s business?
Atria is a large food company that produces food for hundreds of thousands of people in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Russia and Estonia on a daily basis. I don’t think I’m far off the mark in saying that everyone is interested in what their food tastes like. The majority of people also want to know where food comes from, what it contains and how it was made. And almost everyone is interested in the price of food, or the right price-quality ratio.
Atria must have – and we do have – a simple answer to all these concerns. It adds up to a long list of questions and answers that encompasses dozens of stages throughout the food chain, from the field to the consumer’s table. People expect our entire chain to be transparent and open, and we are meeting these expectations. Openness is an integral part of Atria’s responsible conduct and daily operations.
Particularly in the Nordic countries, people are interested in the origin of food and its raw materials. I can confidently say that Atria is a trailblazer in this industry in telling about the origin of meat and about the meat chain. By operating openly, providing information and contributing to an open and honest discussion, we can build trust between us and our stakeholders. This creates a win-win situation, despite the fact that certain matters may still need to be improved.
I think excellent daily operations form the foundation for Atria’s corporate responsibility, as they do for nearly all other matters. They are a source of security and satisfaction not just for us at Atria, but also for customers and consumers, partners and shareholders.
Atria was able to consolidate its financial basis in 2015. For example, its equity ratio increased. However, the business environment was challenging from the perspective of growth and profitability. How would you describe it?
There were three key challenges in Atria’s business environment: falling sales prices in Finland, historically low meat export prices and a shift in demand towards lower-priced products. This structural change in demand could be observed in all of Atria’s home markets. There is naturally plenty of variation within product groups. For example, some convenience food segments showed strong development and growth was also seen.
Perhaps the most positive aspect of the year was growth in volumes: in Finland, Sweden and Denmark, more food was sold than in the previous year. However, more attention must be paid to the price of food and, thereby, to the profitability of the food chain as a whole, particularly in Finland.
Given the economic climate, Atria’s results were reasonable. In recent years, we have made progress in productivity and process management in all of our business areas. Our net sales and EBIT decreased from the previous year. The two main reasons for this were the sale of the Falbygdens cheese business to Arla in Sweden and the weak exchange rate of the rouble against the euro.
The name of Atria’s new strategy for 2016–2020 is Healthy Growth. What kind of growth does it mean?
In short, it means growth in business volumes – in euros and in kilos – without endangering profitability. We need an organic element to growth in our current home market and with our current product groups, but we also keep an open mind towards new opportunities. Acquisitions could be one way of achieving growth.
We are driving Healthy Growth in seven focus areas. One of these is resource optimisation. In practice, this means careful and economical use of both natural and human resources and other factors of production. For example, valuable meat raw material must not be wasted in industrial processes. Besides technology, this requires the continuous development of competence and attitudes. When everyone involved in the long food chain does their work conscientiously, the impact is huge: products, jobs, the economy and the environment are all affected.