“A maverick.” That’s a term that fits the character of Raino Kukkonen, the man responsible for establishing one of the most successful Finnish food companies of the 21st century, Kaslink Foods ltd.
It was just a regular Thursday morning in 1995 when Raino, then in his mid-forties, told his wife Maire in the breakfast table, that he is going to resign from his steady job on that very day. ”Go ahead,” Maire responded.
By then Raino had worked for more than 20 years for Kainuu Dairy in management duties.
He had also had a spare-time enterprise, in his garage of course – the place from where many true greats have started, that manufactured pollen substitute for bees out of milk protein.
It was Russia trade Raino had set his sights on. He started exporting cream to Russia. The business was booming for a while, but Raino felt it was a bit too limited. In a sense, that there wasn’t really any room to develop the business further.
Now, it was time for another business endeavor: Kaslink Foods was born in 2001.
The beginning of our story dates back to 2001 when we started to co-pack high-quality sauce bases for a customer that sold the products onwards to professional kitchens around Europe.
We started the manufacturing of the sauce bases in a rental premise with old machinery. At first we only utilized a small percentage of the production capacity, but it didn’t take too long for us to expand the product range into dessert sauces and other food products such as creams.
In the very early stages of our company, we made the strategic decision to profile ourselves as a contract-manufacturer for retail chains and brand owning partners.
In 2006, the winds of change blew and we decided to concentrate all our operations to Kouvola where our factory was stationed. For the first five years of Kaslink, our management, product development and office departments were located in Sotkamo, wherefrom our family is originally.
In Kouvola we developed our product range further. Our clients were in need of various milk products and we decided to specialize into manufacturing them with piety. Gradually, we transformed from a sauce factory into Finland’s biggest private dairy.
The new product categories, especially the liquid milk goods, and the increasing sales of private label products played a lead role in our quick growth spurt.
With new products and larger scale of production as part of our daily routines, we naturally had to put more effort into quality control. In 2007 we started to use certified BRC quality management system as part of our production processes.
In 2011 the demand for our products was peaking and we invested heavily on our production lines and expanded our storages. Hence, we grew further, and decided to invest in new production and packaging methods.
In this five year period of time our company’s revenue grew 50% per year.
2014 is a truly memorable year for us. We were selected as the Company of the year in Finland and we also lauched our first own brands.
In the last ten years, we have invested 50 million euros in our business and we’ve been one of the fastest growing companies in Finland.
But from our point of view, we are just getting started. There has been a generational change in our company – Raino is active as a Chairman of the Board, and we, Raino’s sons Tuomas, Matti and Petteri, have taken charge. Tuomas has been our CEO since 2015.
The one thing making the difference in the way we do business is the fact that we always try to be at least one step ahead of everyone else.
This is due to our tendency, as a company, to approach everything with an open mind. At Kaslink we are always striving to reach new frontiers in the food industry.
The future roadmap of our company is clear-cut enough: we want to get even closer to the consumers. We are determined to explore the newest consumer trends and create the new hit products of the food industry.
Since the day Kaslink was established we have been known to be a flexible and cooperative company. That is never going to change. We gladly partner up for new inventions, mix-matching the thoughts and know-how of hardcore food industry professionals can only lead to new exciting innovations.
For us, as a company, it’s important to steer clear of any and all comfort zones. It’s important to try and make new, ground-breaking things for the consumers. Giving that extra value to the consumers via the Kaslink expertise – that’s the guiding light of our company.