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Atria sales improve, access to Chinese pork market signals continued growth

The Finnish meat company Atria released a quarterly result showing improved results on Thursday. Recent acquisitions and a long-awaited entry into the Chinese pork market make for promising future prospects.

Aurinkopaneelit tulevat peittämään koko asfalttikentän sekä alueita sen ympäriltä Atrian tehtaalla Nurmossa.
Solar panels at Atria's Nurmo plant. Image: Jarkko Heikkinen / Yle

Finnish food industry company Atria has posted an improved financial result, with 1.06 billion euros in turnover from January to September 2017. Based out of Seinäjoki in the west, Atria Finland Ltd specialises in pork, bovine, retail-packed meat, meat by-products, and convenience food.

Atria CEO Juha Gröhn says the growth is sitting on a strong foundation, after several acquisitions in 2016 and organic growth. Atria Group currently has four separate business areas: Atria Finland, Atria Scandinavia, Atria Russia and Atria Baltic.

"Results in Russia and the Baltic countries have been encouragingly strong over the last three quarters," he says.

The company decided to increase the prices of its products in Russia and Estonia in the autumn, and economic recoveries in Finland and Russia have had a positive effect on demand. The company also launched a new antibiotics-free chicken line in August, and a pork equivalent is being developed for 2018.

Good news for animal farmers

Another reason for the jump in sales is that, after years of waiting for clearance from the Chinese authorities, Atria was finally accepted to begin supplying pork to China. The first supply agreement was drawn up this January, and the first batch of products was delivered to China in late June.

Atria writes that it expects Chinese export volumes for 2017 to exceed 3 million kilos. The market potential is huge, as Chinese diets are shifting radically. Figures show that the country has gone from eating one-third as much meat as the US in 1978, to eating twice as much meat as the US today. Pork is the still the most popular meat in the Chinese diet.

Atria Finland decided last week to concentrate its pork cutting operations at its Nurmo plant. This move will result in 17 people being let go and temporary lay-offs from its Jyväskylä location, which will focus exclusively on bovine meat in future. Each of the people that have been made redundant have been offered jobs elsewhere in Atria's organization.

Atria is also working with a company called Nurmon Aurinko to build a solar power park next to its Nurmo production plant. Eventually, this locally produced, emission-free electricity will replace approximately five percent of the annual power required to run the factory.

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