Jyrki Karlsson, the new Managing Director at Gold&Green Foods, thinks that Finland as food exporter has many advantages that could make food industry the next success story for Finland.
“At the beginning of the year, I started as an independent consultant. I quite liked it – and I envisioned seeing myself doing it for the rest of my life. Then in the spring, I got a phone call asking if I would join Gold&Green Foods. I thought to myself: this is a chance that I just can’t miss,” recalls Jyrki Karlsson, Managing Director of Gold&Green Foods.
Gold&Green Foods is a brand known above all for its revolutionary 100% plant-based protein, Pulled Oats®. The company is a fully owned subsidiary of Paulig.
Jyrki Karlsson was appointed Managing Director of Gold&Green Foods in the beginning of September 2020. Karlsson leads the overall Gold&Green Foods business and drives the international growth in close collaboration with Paulig’s other business areas and country teams.
Food Tech and Innovations play a key role in the future success of the business and Maija Itkonen, co-founder of Gold&Green, will lead this area as Chief Innovation Officer.
A plant-based protein like no other
The reason why Karlsson wanted to join Gold&Green Foods, above all, was because few other companies have achieved the level of innovation that it has.
“I have a long experience from the food industry, and I wanted to use my knowledge for making a real impact on building a more sustainable food system. We want to change the world one meal at a time. Pulled Oats® is the food innovation of the decade in Finland. Sure, new food products are brought to the markets all the time, for example by adding a new spice to a certain product, but very few of them are actual innovations. Gold&Green Foods keeps making products that nobody else has ever made before,” he says.
In addition to product innovation, Karlsson sees Gold&Green Foods as an exciting opportunity to influence peoples eating habits for a healthier future. Its proven international success and brand appeal are built on strong sustainability ground and transparency.
Already, Pulled Oats® is available on the retail market in Finland and the Netherlands and sold in the food service sector in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Spain, the UK and Ireland. In the US, the company is working together with the world’s largest food distributor Sysco.
Finland’s numerous advantages in food production
Besides just Gold&Green Foods, Karlsson believes that the entire Finnish food industry should focus on utilising the largely untapped opportunity of exporting more refined products instead of raw materials. Oat is a great example of this: Finland is the second-largest exporter of oat. Yet, as Pulled Oats® demonstrates, it has vast potential of being developed into products that have international demand.
“It has been said that the respective successes of Nokia and forestry have created the Finland we know today, and I think that the food industry has the potential to achieve the same in the present,” he describes.
Karlsson explains that everything starts from the basics such as having clean nature and traceable food supply chain, both of which Finland has – and both of which are becoming rarer globally.
“In many countries, fake food is a problem – what it says in the label is not what’s in the jar and the ingredient list is long and complicated. Also, the food is often cultivated in places where the soil and air are polluted. In Finland, we have neither of these issues, and we also have an unlimited supply of clean water.”
So, what would need to happen for the Finnish food industry to fully take advantage of this unique combination of high-quality food and transparent business culture?
Karlsson suggests that the country’s food giants should foster innovation by allowing small, agile innovators to keep their freedom. This is opposed to the traditional way for a large corporation to acquire a company, during which it is usually fully merged with its new owner.
This is not the case for Gold&Green Foods and Paulig. While Paulig owns Gold&Green Foods, the latter has its own board of directors and organisation and strong focus on developing completely new innovations.
“We can go from concept to the pilot stage very quickly and develop the final product in an iterative way, just like startups do. At the same time, Paulig offers us indispensable help on some other areas of the business such as sales, logistics or contracts,” Karlsson describes.
To Paulig, Gold&Green Foods is very important because one of the group’s strategic growth focus areas is plant-based products and because it is a great fit with Paulig’s sustainability mission of developing a food culture that is good for both people and planet.
Karlsson believes this kind of symbiotic model between a small, agile player and a large, international company could work in many other instances as well.