VAFO Group, a leading European producer of superpremium pet foods, has officially opened its first factory in Finland. The new facility is the largest of its kind in Finland and the eighth overall for the group. With a production capacity of 20,000 tonnes of pet food each year, VAFO (under the direction of its subsidiary Prima Pet Premium) has thus further strengthened its dominant standing in the local market. The total investment in the new factory exceeded 16 million euros, and at full capacity it will employ up to 20 people. In addition to a positive economic impulse for the region, the project marks the return of production of the Hau-Hau Champion brand to the local market, which means VAFO is also increasing its overall production capacity in the private label segment, an area that has seen remarkable growth in recent times.
Test operation at the new factory in Nokia, Finland, got underway at the beginning of March. The factory is situated in the Kolmenkulma Eco3 park, which features a system of organic and circular economy based on the most advanced production technologies. According to Timo Pärssinen, CEO of Prima Pet Premium, a Finnish subsidiary of VAFO Group, this makes the new factory the most sustainable pet food production facility in the whole of Finland. “A sustainable approach to business is part of VAFO Group’s identity, and consumers in Finland attach great importance to it. Sustainable production was a key criterion even in the planning stages of the new factory. Among other things, we can now resume domestic production of the popular Finnish brand Hau-Hau Champion, the best-selling pet food in the local market, which is 100% carbon neutral and, until now, was produced in the Czech Republic. It’s also great to be able to participate in the development of the regional economy and employment; moreover, now we’re in a better position to respond to consumer demand for domestic, locally produced pet foods,” says Pärssinen.
Opening exactly two years after the building permit was obtained in May of 2021, the new factory encompasses some 3,000 square meters of floorspace, with an additional 300 square meters of warehouse space. It uses an extensive system of solar panels as a source of energy and is 100% compatible with biogas. It also includes a unique packaging line, where special machines produce bags from recyclable film, including the largest 12 kg and 15 kg bags. Not only does this result in more sustainable production, it also reduces packaging costs, lowers storage requirements for empty packaging, and saves money on the transport of packaging materials.
The investment in the new factory is important throughout Finland. By 2025, when the factory will be running at full capacity, it will employ up to 20 people. However, the indirect effects on employment are even greater, because, where possible, the new factory uses domestic raw materials from Finnish suppliers. For example, 80% of all raw materials are sourced from within 100 kilometres of the plant. In addition, when choosing packaging materials, the company prefers domestic manufacturers with whom it can develop responsible and sustainable packaging solutions.
With this step, VAFO has further bolstered its dominant position in the Nordic pet food market. The volume of the Finnish market alone, one of the largest in Europe, is worth approximately 600 million euros per year. “The pet food business is in good shape despite the difficult global situation; it truly is a recession-proof sector. Pets are increasingly seen as equal members of the family, and their food isn’t the first thing on the list when consumers want to save. It’s as much an essential item in the shopping basket as food for the other members of the family,” explains Pärssinen.
At the same time, the number of pets continues to grow, and there are also more consumers who want to treat their pets to better, higher-quality, and more sustainable food from a broader field of brands. Recent years have seen a significant increase in private labels. “Thanks to the largest pet food production plant in Finland, Prima Pet Premium now has the opportunity to offer production capacity to those interested in creating their own private brands. And it all comes with a guarantee of the most sustainable method of production,” concludes Pärssinen.