Even with the world in turmoil at the moment, it’s soothing to know that some good things never change. With shopper trends such as naturally pure products, craftmanship and the need for great ingredients driving cheese sales, Ari Ahonen, Sales Director at Valio, is confident that our commitment to product quality and superior service are now more relevant than ever.
One of our first cheeses, the Valio Emmental, was first created in 1908 and has since then been awarded numerous times for its nutty aroma in international competitions. The secret to its taste can be found in the unique cheesemaking expertise of Valio, but according to Ari Ahonen, we also need to give credit to the pure Finnish milk Valio uses: ”the quality of the milk used in production directly correlates with the quality of cheese. All our milk comes from our owners – the farmers that own the Valio co-operative – which makes all of our milk 100 % traceable. We also use our own ferment and never any additives or preservatives. Our milk has no antiobiotic residue and I can proudly say that it is among the best in the world,” he points out.
”Valio Emmental is a clean label product. It is lactose free, made from natural ingredients, and always meets the requirements of the FAO Emmental Codex. So it should come as no surprise that I think that our Emmental is one of the best in the world,” Ahonen says.
Cheese is an incredibly versatile ingredient and can be used in pizza’s, sandwiches, salads and processed food. That is why we offer all kinds of cheeses and cheese ingredients for cutting, slicing and grating, and as a raw material in manufacturing processed cheese.
”What I love about cheese is the fact that it is a living product. It doesn’t just go through a production process and then get put into a package. A cheese lives and changes althrough its life, with taste and aromas changing quite a bit over time. When you consider this, it’s easy to see why producing high-quality cheese requires so much attention on details. I imagine anyone would be interested in being a part of this kind of process," Ari Ahonen explains.
Valio Emmental is one of the best Emmentals in the world
Emmental isn’t the only high-quality cheese we export. For years now, Valio has been exporting different types of cheese to over 20 countries such as Belgium, France, Italy and USA. To Ari Ahonen, this means a chance to further improve operations of his own sales team as well: ”for me personally, this has meant meeting lots of different types of customers and getting to know different markets. The key thing I’ve learned is that there are no certainties. Whenever we have faced a new challenge, we have found a solution to it. By meeting interesting people, we have also learned much and improved our own operations,” he explains.
”It’s no wonder that Valio has been so successful with cheeses. After all, Finns eat over 25 kg of cheese annually per capita. This is one of the highest amounts in the world,” Ari Ahonen states.
Like many Finnish companies, Valio has been placing a lot of emphasis on sustainable operation and was voted as the most sustainable company in Finland for the 7th year in a row. For Ari Ahonen, sustainability has a broader meaning: ”being sustainable affects many things in regards to product safety and quality, but it also has ramifications on how we perceive our relationship with our customers. We want our processes to work smoothly with no hiccups. This means that our customers get the exact products they’ve ordered always on time. In Finland, we keep our promises and this is something that we want our customers and partners to feel as well,” Ari Ahonen explains.
”We always want to improve our customer experience. That’s why we launched an online trading platform for global industrial customers last year. It offers buyers and sellers new opportunities and faster, more transparent and flexible ways of trading. In the NUI online platform, you can also easily purchase Valio’s basic ingredients such as cheese and butter. And it’s open for business, 24/7,” Ahonen says.