Bioeconomy in Lapland fosters new, cross-sector business
New raw materials and the utilization of industrial effluents will open new business opportunities for Lapland in the near future.
Environmental research opened Antti Kuivalainen’s eyes to the uniqueness of the plants of Lapland. This realisation led to the creation of Davvi, an Arctic natural cosmetics line based on plants and herbs from Lapland.
“Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Lapland is home to plant species that would usually thrive much further down south in other parts of the world. During the short growing season, plants must also take advantage of the sunny nights in Lapland. Because of this, they become particularly rich in nutrients as they grow – the fatty acids in plants which photosynthesise in sunlight through the night would become rancid without strong antioxidants,” says Antti Kuivalainen, Managing Director of Forest of Lapland.
This is also the basis for the business idea behind the Davvi Cosmetics product brand developed by the company. Named after the Sami language word for North, the natural cosmetics line comprises products manufactured from extracts collected from plants and herbs growing in Lapland. The active ingredients in the products include spruce sprouts, oats, juniper, cranberry, cowberry, sea buckthorn, raspberry and meadowsweet, among other things.
Kuivalainen sees huge potential in plants growing in Lapland.
“To give an example, the coniferous trees in Lapland have more antibacterial compounds than those growing further down south. The extracts from pine and spruce trees can be utilised in fighting hospital bacteria, for example.”
As is the case in the food industry, natural products are also a growing trend in cosmetics. “When there are options available, more and more consumers choose the natural product.”
According to Kuivalainen, many other pieces also fell neatly into place. Not only are the raw materials from Lapland clean and rich in nutrients, it also provides an advantage that Finland is a “country of extreme order”.
“In Finland, the plants and their collection areas have been closely studied and recorded. Finnish Lapland is the largest unified and certified organic collection area in the world.”
The raw materials are primarily purchased from various collector cooperatives and private collectors. Some of the materials also come from industrial side streams.
Antti Kuivalainen says that he “stumbled into” the natural product industry somewhat by accident – as have many other residents of Lapland, according to him.
“In Lapland, it’s often necessary to draw your livelihood from many sources, and many entrepreneurs have drifted to natural products almost by accident upon noticing an opportune time and a gap in the market.”
Forest of Lapland and Davvi are only a small part of Kuivalainen’s business operations, the cornerstone of which is Ahma ympäristö, a company focused on environmental research. The environmental laboratory of this company, headquartered in Kittilä, is the second largest in Finland. It performs more than 1.1 million analyses per year.
“I understood through environmental research that organic products are not unscientific nonsense. For example, the unique growing conditions in Lapland really do generate compounds in plants that clearly maintain life. We had access to the raw materials and the necessary technology, so launching new operations was relatively easy.”
The first product testing of Davvi started in the yard of Kuivalainen’s parents’ cottage. “We extracted a test patch from spruce sprouts that we picked from the spruce hedge at the summer cottage. The sample has now been sitting in room temperature at our laboratory for more than a year, and it continues to show no sign of mould or other additional growths.”
The first Davvi products – moisturising and eye creams for women and after shave products for men – were launched last autumn. The company is still strongly in its start-up phase, and new products will be added to the product line shortly. In Finland, the products are mainly sold at pharmacies and shops specialising in Lappish products. From the beginning, the aim has been to take the products to the international market – according to Kuivalainen, there is a great deal of interest, and a large proportion of the products is already being exported.
“Davvi is only one example of all the things you can create from plants growing in Lapland and their extracts. I see great potential in care products and protective products in particular. We are continuously developing new end products ourselves.”
Each finished product is rooted in copious amounts of research and product development.
“With all the testing and permit processes, this work is very much long-term, so it’s no use waiting for quick profits in this business.”