New things emerge when creativity and problem-solving converge: Sini Elonen is developing tomorrow’s products from powders

A small milk truck climbs the winding roads of an Alpine village as the locally befitting sound of yodelling echoes from the radio. The music choice of the host of local cheesery, apparently. The internship in Switzerland with its unique little quirks sparks joyful memories for Sini Elonen, who, even as a student, knew she wanted to work at Valio. The Alpine scenery has since been replaced with the hybrid reality in which she keeps busy in Valio’s research and product development work in Helsinki and at the Valio Lapinlahti plant, and engaging in collaboration with international partners and customers, among other things.

You joined Valio 10 years ago as a product developer, and today you are product development manager of Milk and Whey powders team. What attracted you to this work?

I have a background in food chemistry and food technology. The creativity, problem-solving and a certain pragmatism in product development are intriguing. No two days are the same. Product development work involves either the maintenance of existing products or the development of something completely new. Sometimes the impetus for the development of a new product comes through a customer request, sometimes the need arises in a business unit at Valio or, for instance, through the monitoring of food industry trends. In the case of trends, one example of the emerging issue could be the desire for products with reduced sugar content.

The product development process for a new value-added powder involves many phases before the product launch and approval for sale. A product developer’s job description is diverse, with tasks ranging from the formulation of recipes, planning pilot- and production-scale test runs, sensory analyses and the testing of new raw materials. A product developer works in close collaboration with customers and Valio’s internal and external stakeholders.

You work with Valio’s value-added powders. Tell us a bit more about them!

For decades Valio has invested in the development, technology and production of various value-added powders, and, in fact, our products have huge potential globally. For example, our innovation – Valio Eila® lactose free milk powders – offers diverse solutions for different food product applications, such as low-sugar products with Valio Bettersweet™ solution and the currently popular protein puddings.

Another interesting product category is baby food powders, the development of which must take into account a particularly sensitive target group as well as stringent quality, legislative and nutritional requirements. Working with value-added value powders is not only super interesting, it’s also very international – the daily work involves close cooperation with experts from various sectors in Finland and abroad.

Sounds interesting. How do you have time for all this?

I live a truly hybrid work life: our home is located in Siilinjärvi, Valio’s research and product development is in Helsinki, and I also work at the Valio Lapinlahti plant, which produces e.g. milk, demineralized Valio Demi™ whey powders and Valio Eila® milk powders and baby food powders. Valio also produces powders in Seinäjoki, Haapavesi and Joensuu. Things are working fine this way, and the days are flexibly split between home and Valio’s different work sites.

Valio offers wonderful opportunities to develop and to try different career paths for the right fit. The work community is in many ways like a family – and for me also literally because I met my husband at Valio. Actually, I met his parents first; they used to work at Valio. We just calculated that our family has a total of 100 Valio years amongst us. We’ll see if our children continue the tradition.

Sini Elonen

  • M.Sc. in Food Chemistry, B.Sc. in Food Technology
  • Lives in Siilinjärvi
  • Learning gardening and photography
  • Likes Valio Keisarinna® cheese and Valio’s peach Greek yoghurt
  • Enjoys creativity and is motivated by collaboration
Valio people
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