Valio invests in Lapinlahti plant cheese manufacturing

Food company Valio is making a significant investment of over 60 million in the cheese production process at the Lapinlahti plant. The investment includes an expansion of the existing facilities and the replacement of the equipment. The investment is intended to replace the current manufacturing equipment, which has reached the end of its technical service life. Construction work will begin in the summer of 2024, and the new production line is expected to be commissioned in the spring of 2026.

“With this significant investment, we secure the continuity of cheese production for a long time to come. In practice, this means that, for example, our popular gourmet cheese, Valio Keisarinna, everyday favourite Valio Hyvä suomalainen Arki and dozens of other cheeses will continue to be found on store shelves. The investment will also reduce the waste generated in production and boost the cheese-making capacity of the Lapinlahti plant, ”says Aleksi Ylitalo, director of the Lapinlahti plant.

The changes in cheesemaking include an expansion of the existing facilities with a floor area of about 2,000 square metres and new cheesemaking equipment. Also the packaging operations and equipment will be renewed. In addition, the investment includes a new power substation and back-up power.

Lapinlahti is an important plant for Valio

Lapinlahti, one of Valio’s largest locations, is situated in a core region of Finnish milk production and receives about a quarter of Valio’s raw milk, i.e. 415 million litres of milk per year. Lapinlahti produces ripened cheeses for everyday use and gourmet occasions. Cheeses are made for the domestic market and are also exported to, for example, Central Europe and the United States.

In addition to cheeses, the Lapinlahti plant produces milk powder, demineralized whey powder and added-value powders such as lactose-free milk powders and baby food. Most of the milk powder products are exported.

In recent years, Valio has actively developed the Lapinlahti plant and invested especially in the plant’s powder production. The most recent investment is a consumer product packaging plant, which was completed in 2020. In 2022, the plant underwent a major energy renovation, which enabled the recovery of the heat from the plant’s flue gasses. This reduced the plant’s energy consumption by more than 10% and greenhouse gas emissions by about 10,000 tonnes of CO2e per year, which corresponds to roughly the annual emissions of 4,900 passenger cars.

“The Kuopio region is the most important milk production region in Finland, and Eastern Finland is a significant area for food production in general. In Eastern Finland, the food production chain, from fields to dinner tables, employs a total of over 20,000 people*. That means the region is a significant contributor for the security of food supply and food exports in Finland as a whole,” says Ylitalo.

The Valio Lapinlahti factory employs roughly 285 professionals. The location is an important employer throughout North Savo, as it provides job opportunities for a wide range of experts in areas like manufacturing, packaging, warehouse, laboratory and maintenance, as well as various managerial and expert tasks in automation and process development and design.

“Eastern Finland has a lot of potential for growth and development. Both Finnish and EU decision-makers must ensure that the conditions for business investment and operations in Eastern Finland are right. A vibrant Eastern Finland is also a factor that increases the security of Finland as a whole,” says Anna-Kaisa Auvinen, Valio’s corporate relations director.

*Statistics Finland, 2022

Cheese remains popular

Finnish cheese consumption has remained stable over the past decade. Finns eat an average of 25,5 kg of cheese per person every year. (Natural Resource Institute of Finland, 2023) More than half of Finns use cheese daily, often on bread (Taloustutkimus, Finland eats survey 2022, Finns aged 15–79).“Cheese is an easy way add flavour and nutrition in snacks and main courses. When it comes to our palates, us Finns are thought to like mild flavours, but especially for festive occasions and in food preparation, we also choose products with a deeper palette of flavours,” says Annamari Lammi, Valio’s SVP of Fresh Products, Cheese and Fats.

In home kitchens, cheese is not only an ever-popular everyday product, but it also plays an increasingly prominent role in festive occasions. The grazing table, which consists of cheeses, fruits, biscuits and jams, is a spectacular and trendy set-up for graduations, confession celebrations or other summer parties, among others. You can just as well assemble one with seasonal and personal tastes in mind for any other situation – whether big or small. You do not need lots of a rich cheese for every taster, and everyone can choose the cheeses and side dishes that they like. Instructions for cheese trays and tips for cheese tastings can be found on the Valio website.

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