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Alcohol leads Finnish food exports

Russian export markets may have stalled due to sanctions, but Finnish alcohol producers are finding new growth in other markets including Asia. One award-winning distillery, Kyrö, is confident it will conquer the world.

Marianne Aheinen ja Juulia Rinta pullottavat palkittua juomaa.
Bottling Napue gin at the Kyrö Distillery. Image: Pasi Takkunen / Yle

In the small town of Isokyrö in Ostrobothnia, rye-based gin and whisky maker Kyrö Distillery Company is growing so quickly that its one million euro turnover for last year is set to quadruple in 2016.

Its run-away hit, Napue gin, is flying off the shelves in Finland and gaining a following abroad. Napue was named "the world's best gin" at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in the UK in 2015.

Kyrö Distillery founder and CEO Miika Lipiäinen says that the local water, grains, berries and herbs they use are all world class.

"And counter to what some may claim, Finns do know how to brand and successfully take products to world markets," says Lipiäinen.

Growing markets

For the third year in a row, Finnish food exports are being led by alcoholic beverages, which netted 37 million euros in the first quarter of this year. Demand for unique products as well as public and private funding to support Finnish exports has helped.

According to Esa Wrang, Finpro's director of the Food from Finland programme, Russia was previously such a big trade partner that many Finnish firms focused all their resources there, neglecting other markets.

"Asia is full of potential with China, Japan and South Korea prime markets for alcoholic beverages," says Wrang.

In ten years Lipiäinen believes Kyrö Distillery will be a serious contender in the top-ten markets, including the US and Canada: "When people think of rye-based drinks, they'll think of Kyrö," predicts Lipiäinen.

Local drinks

Kyrö is part of the global trend of favouring local food and local products whereby consumers want to know about the origin and quality of ingredients and are interested in a product's producers and their values.

"People are interested in smaller, independent producers over larger, multinational ones," says Lipiäinen, whose company has increased its annual production from 100,000 to 350,000 bottles. In addition to the popular Napue gin, Kyrö's range includes Juuri, which it bills as the first Nordic single malt rye whisky, and Koskue rye gin.

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