Celebrating Valio Seinäjoki’s first 50 years

On 19 August 2015 at a discrete ceremony with its staff, Valio’s Seinäjoki plant celebrated 50 years of production and inaugurated its most recent investment, the new washing centre. The plant manufactures one of Valio’s broadest set of products and processes more milk than any of the Valio plants. Seinäjoki took in nearly 490 million litres of raw milk from around 1 150 dairy farmers in Southern Ostrobothnia in 2014.

The Seinäjoki plant manufactures all of Valio’s butters, Valio KevytLevi® and Valio Oivariini® products, Valio’s quarks and cottage cheeses, as well as the Valio Gefilus® daily-dose drinks and Valio Hevi® shot drinks. Seinäjoki is also the primary producer of Valio milk powders. And the composition and quality of the milk from each and every Valio dairy cow are analysed there.

The plant, then known as Maitojaloste, was established 50 years ago to produce Valio butter. It opened for business on 31 January 1965 with milk powder drying. The butter churns started up a few weeks later on 25 February and the plant was officially inaugurated on 17 June 1965.

The plant has manufactured a variety of products over the years, comprising packaged liquid milk, viili fermented milk, cultured buttermilks, yoghurts and juices. Milk packaging ended in the early 1990s and Valio shifted the production of all its quarks and cottage cheeses to Seinäjoki in the early 2000s.

50 years of cottage cheese in Finland

Cottage cheese production in Finland started in 1965 on the initiative of Pellervo Saarinen, Valio’s then Managing Director. Mr Saarinen invited a professor from a university in Michigan (US) to guide production, which started at Valio’s Turku dairy in Southwest Finland that year and was all moved to Seinäjoki in 2003.

Valio has invested more than 100 million euros in Seinäjoki during the past 10 years

There was a major leap forward in butter production in the early 1980s when a new butter plant was built in Seinäjoki. It was the biggest of its kind in Europe, yielding a massive capacity with three butter machines operating side by side. In the early days, production volumes stood at around 7 million kilos per year, but by the year 2000 that had risen on the same premises to 64 million kilos.

The butter plant was then reconstructed for the third time in 2010. The project took into account the need to ensure that the most modern technical requirements and sufficient capacity would be met going forward. In 2014, Seinäjoki manufactured 57 million kilos of Valio butter.

Valio’s investments at Seinäjoki during the past 10 years include the improvement of the butter plant, the biggest heat pump system in Europe which significantly enhances the plant’s energy-efficiency, and a new quark production line.

“The Seinäjoki plant and the Maitosuomi, Evijärvi and Härmä Valio dairy co-operatives have and continue to occupy a position of great significance. The plant processes the world’s best raw milk into products much loved by Finnish consumers, and for international sales produces high-quality butter as well as milk powder used for example as an ingredient in baby foods. It’s highly likely that a croissant eaten in Paris has been baked with Valio butter. Valio exports account for 30% of total Finnish food exports and 97% of Finnish dairy exports, and the Seinäjoki plant plays a big part in that. Valio’s export know-how ensures that Finland remains self-sufficient in terms of milk production and contributes to the country’s trade balance,” Valio CEO Annikka Hurme pointed out in her speech at the plant.

Plant Director Timo Panula thanked Valio’s owner co-operatives for their ability to take the long view in making the investment decisions, and the staff for their expertise:

“Although the milk that was previously processed for the Russian market is now being used largely to make industrial butter, growth will undoubtedly pick up at some point. The top-flight expertise of the staff at the Seinäjoki plant guarantees the high standard of Valio products at all times. We need to ensure that we’re ready to strike when the time is right. So for instance we’ve invested in a new water pipeline that will secure the plant’s water supply and growth going forward.”

Valio and its dairy farmers employ more than 4 000 people in Southern Ostrobothnia

Valio and Valio’s owner entrepreneurs’ dairy farms employ more than 4 000 people in Southern Ostrobothnia. Valio Group operations generated a gross income of around 180 million euros in the province in 2014.

“Each cent spent on Valio products contributes to Finland’s welfare in terms of employment and livelihood. Valio’s entire profit is paid to our owner entrepreneurs, dairy farmers, who in turn buy services in their own region,” said CEO Annikka Hurme.