Valio and Finnish pizza chain Kotipizza share a desire for sustainability

Valio made cheese is the cornerstone of the business of Finnish pizzamakers Kotipizza. The pizza chain is a stickler about sustainability and wants to know, in detail, the conditions in which we milk our cows.

Pauliina Pakkasmaa and Mikael Tammirinne’s farm, in Lohja, southern Finland, has 50 milking cows. They produce 400,000 litres of first-class milk every year. Lumi and Iiris, Lilja and Lese, Kevät and Cappuccino walk around the barn, and are completely friendly with strangers. The cows are eager for contact, with shy sniffs that beg for cuddles. Our guests’ attention is rewarded with warm, wet snorts and kind eyes.

Some of the animals are lining up at the automatic milking system. Myrsky keeps close attention to Kotipizza CEO Tommi Tervanen, who is very much interested in Valio milk – after all, we deliver his pizzerias with a million kilos of cheese. Kotipizza’s 267 franchise pizzerias bake ten million pizzas every year. What’s on them is therefore vitally important.“There’s a holy trinity to pizza - the dough, tomatoes and cheese. They have to be perfect, the other toppings are just a side show”, says Tervanen. Valio’s Pizza Cheese was developed specifically for Kotipizza. As cheese is so very important, our deliveries must be extremely reliable. “If the Friday shipment can’t make it, there will be restaurants that have to close. Our franchises can’t get the same product at the corner store.” Valio and Kotipizza have been partners for all of Kotipizza’s existence. One example is the ever-divisive Valio AURA® blue cheese. “Valio developed the crumbled version for us, originally. We use tremendous amounts of Valio AURA® cheese, and grating the large cheese wheels took a lot of time.”

The farm’s history reaches all the way to the mid-1600s. Pauliina Pakkasmaa took over her homestead in 2000, and a few years later, she found a capable farmer in Mikael Tammirinne. “We are committed to producing the highest quality milk possible. It is made with both eyes on the animals’ wellbeing,” says Mikael Tammirinne while scratching his animals’ wet noses. Animal health is monitored regularly, and a veterinarian visits the farm every month. “There is a very low barrier to calling the vet even in acute situations. It costs, of course, but with quick help, the animal gets taken care of quickly as well. I might not be good at the business side of things, but I want to make sure my animals are healthy, maybe even more than my own,” says Pauliina Pakkasmaa, smiling among her cows. There are no antibiotic traces in Finnish Valio milk, which is the cleanest in the EU when comparing somatic cell and bacterial counts. In 2017, 96.9% of the milk Valio collects was of the highest class, E.

Starting this year, Valio has paid its owner-entrepreneurs a sustainability bonus, which requires planned veterinary care and, among other things, disbudding under anaesthetic. “These were always obvious to us, and the sustainability bonus hasn’t really changed anything at our farm,” says Pakkasmaa. Of the milk volume received by the Valio Group in February, 90.8% was covered by the sustainability bonus. The goal is that all Valio Group farms are included in the sustainability programme in 2020.

Sustainability has also become number one for Kotipizza during Tervanen’s tenure. Its roots, however, go deeper. “I have spent all of my life purchasing and sourcing the best ingredients from all around the world,” he starts. He came to Kotipizza five years ago, only to find the company in a sorry state: “Ingredient quality was all over the place, sales numbers were plummeting, merchants were unhappy and the whole business was rife with grey market practices.” That is when the flames of sustainability were lit. “We asked ourselves, what does this company do, and why. We came to a vision of wanting to make the world better, one pizza at a time. Sustainability is everything to us, and that must show in everything we do,” Tervanen continues.

Valio’s dairy farmers and Kotipizza share a desire to keep improving their sustainability. Kotipizza does not believe in flashy reports, but instead in everyday action. Kotipizza is developing its self-control tools, and among its major focus points is reducing food waste. Food waste is an enormous, global issue that has an adverse climate effect. “So, remember to eat the crust, too,” says Tervanen with a half-serious grin.

“You are pioneers in so many things,” says Pauliina Pakkasmaa after listening to Tervanen, who reminds us that “we’re never done, we have to keep moving forward”. The modern-day milk producing couple understands the sustainability requirements on dairy farms. “That’s just what it’s like today. You can’t just do it, you have to show proof, too,” says Pakkasmaa. Tervanen takes a look at Pakkasmaa and Tammirinne. “You can see the producers’ happiness in the animals and in the quality of their product. Cheese from an unhappy cow would not be this good.”