The world's most modern snack plant comes into operation in Valio Riihimäki, Southern Finland. The inauguration of the dairy plant is being held today, 17 August. The plant uses the very latest environmentally-friendly technology. With the new plant and its modern technology, Valio's world-class product development expertise will be used to its full extent. Consumers will benefit from this in the form of innovative snack products.
“Innovativeness, a wonderful taste, and responsible manufacturing practices. These are the things that people expect from their snacks, and our new snack plant meets these needs,” says Valio CEO Annikka Hurme. “The plant is a concrete example of how seriously we take our responsibilities, since many loss-reducing and natural resource-saving choices were made in its planning and construction. The new plant also combines Valio Riihimäki’s 50-year tradition of yoghurt manufacturing with the most advanced technology,” promises Valio CEO Annikka Hurme.
“We at Valio believe in the future of responsible dairy production and profitable milk processing,” says Vesa Kaunisto, Chairman of the Board at Valio. “The continued profitability of dairy farming is best ensured when the company they own, Valio, succeeds in a competitive field and, therefore, remains able to pay a good price to its shareholders through cooperatives. This modern snack plant makes us even more competitive, both in Finland and on the export market.” Kaunisto adds that once the snack plant comes into operation, almost half of its production will be for the export market, for the time being largely Sweden and Denmark. “However, in the future we expect to expand to other countries.”
A new standard of eco-friendliness
Environmental friendliness was ensured in the plant in several ways. Resource efficiency guided the design of the plant, and is at the heart of all its operations. Many choices and solutions were made and implemented to reduce waste and save resources.
“The material flows in the plant are efficient, because manufacturing of the products is straightforward. There are no unnecessary intermediate steps,” says project manager Jukka Partti. “For this reason, the raw materials used in production, the packaging materials, and the finished products themselves also flow seamlessly from one stage to another without excessive handling.”
The plant uses about 30% less energy per unit of production than the old factory Valio Riihimäki. To achieve maximum energy efficiency, the plant makes efficient use of the waste heat generated during manufacturing. In the new type of refrigerated warehouse, the products are cooled quickly, while saving energy at the same time. The products are cooled by the free cooling method, so that in colder weather the low outside temperature is used to make the process more energy-efficient. Thanks to the energy-saving technology and heat recovery systems, the new plant uses energy production from the existing heat production plant. In other words, there was no need to expand capacity. More than three-quarters of the thermal energy used at Valio Riihimäki comes from renewable fuel.
Significant resources have also been invested in effective and efficient food loss management has also been invested. The manufacturing and packaging equipment are designed to minimise product loss. The standards of hygiene in the plant are top-class, since the manufacturing equipment is completely isolated from the surrounding environment. The rigorous standards of hygiene reduce losses throughout the manufacturing chain, from the factory to the consumer’s table.
Respect and consideration for the environment are also accentuated by the location of the plant in Riihimäki. The plant is centrally located in Finland, thereby allowing both the milk collection plant and the finished products to be distributed and exported efficiently and with minimal impact on the environment.
The latest technology
The plant uses the very latest equipment and technology, allowing Valio to get the best possible benefit from its unique R&D expertise. The design of the new manufacturing processes in the plant has taken account of all the established operating, and has integrated them with the new technology.
This means that in the new snack plant, innovation and tradition go hand in hand. When it was first opened, Valio Riihimäki was the most modern dairy in Europe; and now, 50 years later, it is once again a pioneer. The 50 years of expertise and tradition in manufacturing yoghurts are melded with the latest technology and manufacturing equipment.
In the first phase, the plant will manufacture products that are already familiar to Finnish consumers, such as the Valiojogurtti® series. Once the plant becomes fully operational, consumers around the world will also be able to enjoy a whole new kind of innovative snack products that are both healthy and delicious. New types of recipes for snacks will be used in the new plant. There are new ways to reduce sugar, and, for example, the protein or fat content of products can be varied in innovative ways. The plant meets the strictest quality standards.
The snack plant is the largest single investment in Valio’s history, with a value of EUR170 million.
Construction of the new snack plant began in 2014 and took about three years.
The plant site covers an area of about 53 hectares, of which about 265,000 square metres are floor space. The area of the plant building is approximately 20,000 square metres. The plant is a five-storey building.
More than 4,000 people were involved in building the plant during the three years of its construction. A total of about 1.1 million work hours went into construction of the plant.
The plant has an annual production capacity of around 120 million kilos.
Valio employs a total of about 440 people at Valio Riihimäki plants and in total Valio provides employment for more than 4,000 employees.