In 2019, cheese in Finland suffered a further modest decline in retail volume terms, while posting positive but weak growth in current value terms, albeit an improvement on the contractions registered the previous two years. The main challenge for cheese manufacturers in Finland is the category’s maturity.
Health and wellness remained a growing area in cheese in 2019, as in other packaged food categories. Demand for reduced salt cheese is increasing, largely thanks to the efforts of domestic dairy giant Valio, which has developed Valio ValSa, a reduced sodium milk salt innovation.
Cheese eating habits have continued to change in Finland. While previously cheese was seen mainly as a topping for bread, it is now increasingly being eaten as a snack and used as a cooking ingredient.
The domestic dairy giant Valio remained the clear leader in cheese in 2019, accounting for around one third of overall value sales thanks to a wide range of products and an ongoing focus on catering for changing consumer demands and tastes. Although the company’s performance in 2019 was generally in line with that of the wider cheese category, it was however outperformed by various other manufacturers, including private label and smaller players.
Manufacturers have continued to focus on offering Finnish consumers a wider range of cheese flavours in order to maintain their interest in the category and help drive value sales. New launches from Valio have included Valio Jalapeno Jaakko slices and Valio Pippuri Pekka sliced cheese with pepper, while the small domestic manufacturer Jukkola Food has launched Jukkolan Mustajussi, an artisanal soft cheese with black pepper.
Manufacturers also continued to invest in marketing and advertising in 2019 in an effort to support their brands and drive sales in a mature category. Valio, for instance, advertised its Oltermanni Port Salut cheese on YouTube as having been made in a French style but to fit the taste preferences of Finnish consumers.
In 2019, drinking milk products posted a further modest decline in retail volume sales, while value sales only rose slightly in current terms. This performance can be attributed to the fact that drinking milk products is a very mature category in Finland, with growth opportunities remaining limited for manufacturers.
As in other dairy categories, health and wellness remained a prominent trend in drinking milk products in 2019. Indeed, organic milk is the best-selling organic food product in Finland.
Domestic origins remained very important to consumers of drinking milk products in 2019. For example, the domestic dairy cooperative Valio, which is owned by Finnish farmers, has used several strategies in this regard, such as emphasising that it produces the EU’s cleanest milk, which is free from GMOs as its dairy cows are the healthiest in Europe.
Drinking milk products remained a very competitive category in 2019, with several manufacturers and retailers commanding a significant share of value sales. Indeed, the category has witnessed a price war in recent years, with the aftermath of this still rumbling on.
Milk alternatives remained by far the best performing category in drinking milk products in 2019, registering strong double-digit retail volume and current value growth, albeit from a low base. The category is benefiting from increasing health awareness and a strong focus on new product development.
Environmental impact, product safety, transparency and animal wellbeing are all issues which are being looked at by manufacturers. At the end of 2017, Valio became the first company in the world to use innovative 100% plant-based gable top cartons for its organic milk, with its aim being that by the end of 2018 all of its drinking milk packaging will be made from plant-based materials, including the screw cap.
In 2019, yoghurt and sour milk products in Finland suffered a further slight decline in retail volume sales while value sales in current terms remained flat. This performance can largely be attributed to the maturity of the category, with stronger growth rates hard to achieve.
Many of the new yoghurts launched in 2018 and 2019 were lactose-free. For example, Valio introduced Valio Lempeä plain yoghurt, which is positioned as similar to Turkish and Greek yoghurt but has a less acidic taste and is free from lactose.
The review period saw the leading manufacturers, particularly Valio and Arla, significantly reduce the sugar content of their yoghurts, with 2018 witnessing the launch of new products with no added white sugar or sweeteners. Valio, for example, released three lactose-free Valio ProFeel protein yoghurts in cranberry-granola, apricot-raspberry and blueberry-vanilla flavours.
Despite being a hugely competitive category, the domestic dairy giant Valio remained the clear leader in yoghurt and sour milk products in 2019, generally maintaining its share of value sales. The company’s position can be attributed to its ongoing focus on innovation and new product development as well as reducing the environmental impact of its business as it seeks to cater for and address consumers’ changing demands and increasing concerns.
Competition in yoghurt and sour milk products in Finland is fierce, largely as a result of a very wide choice of products. As a result, it is difficult to for smaller players to gain share and challenge the leading companies such as Valio.
With increasing concerns about climate change and the impact of food production on the environment, manufacturers in Finland are working hard to reduce their carbon footprint and make their products and packaging more environmentally-friendly. For example, Valio became the first company in the world to use innovative 100% plant-based gable top cartons for its dairy products, while Ålandsmejeriet launched new more environmentally-friendly recycled carton packaging for its sour cream and crème fraiche in 2019, the use of which may well be extended into other dairy categories.
In 2019, other dairy in Finland continued to record only modest retail volume growth, primarily as a result of category maturity. Value sales growth, however, was stronger as manufacturers continued to seek ways to offset this maturity, for example through a strong focus on developing new products which are lactose-free, organic, sugar-free, high in protein or provide new flavour combinations or textures.
The protein boom in Finland continued to remain strong in 2019. This was supported by an ongoing manufacturer focus on new product development and more exercise enthusiasts and health-conscious millennials adopting a high-protein diet, with this in particular helping to boost sales of quark.
In addition to demanding healthier other dairy offerings, Finnish consumers are also seeking greater convenience from the products they buy. Making cooking easier, for example through the provision of flavoured creams, has enabled busy consumers to save time, with preparing meals at home remaining a popular activity.
In 2019, the domestic dairy giant Valio remained the clear leader in other dairy, accounting for around a third of overall value sales. The company continued to slowly grow its value share thanks to an ongoing focus on new product development as well as heavy investment in marketing and promotional activities.
2018 saw manufacturers launch new lactose-free other dairy products, with this continuing in 2019. While in 2018 Valio expanded its organic range with Valio Luomu Raejuusto cottage cheese, marketing this as the only domestic organic and lactose-free cottage cheese, it also relaunched its Fanny dairy dessert brand but as a lactose-free product.
In 2019, other dairy manufacturers continued to invest in marketing and advertising, with their campaigns highlighting the health and wellness attributes of their products. In its humorous television commercials, Arla continued to point out that its Arla Lempi Ruokakerma cooking cream contains fewer additives than other creams, with the company seeking to appeal to Finnish consumers’ rising demand for cleaner ingredients.
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This industry report originates from Passport, our Packaged Food market research database.