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May 5, 2021updated 11 May 2021 6:51pm

Valio seeks partners for Oddlygood plant-based business

By Simon Harvey

Finnish food group Valio plans to spin-off its plant-based Oddlygood operations into a new venture and is seeking a “network of partners” to drive growth in the business.

The Oddlygood business encompasses oat drinks, dairy-free cheese and yogurts, and protein snacks such as drinks, puddings and quark snacks. Valio said those products will be housed under Oddlygood Global Ltd.

Potential partners could be “distributors in markets where Valio doesn’t have its own network”, the dairy farmers-owned company said in a statement, adding: “Oddlygood Global is seeking one or more partners who can bring distribution and sales networks, as well as resources to accelerate international growth in various markets”.

Tuomas Salusjärvi, Valio’s ‎executive vice president for growth businesses and R&D, said: “People are increasingly interested in plant-based products, and changing global consumer trends are behind this. We see a lot of opportunities for Valio in the strongly growing market for plant-based products in Finland and abroad.

“Oddlygood Global Ltd. is a launch that aligns with our new strategy aiming to expand Valio’s international business. We will now pursue this growth increasingly stronger with Oddlygood Global Ltd. and international partners.”

Valio's new venture will be headed up by Niko Vuorenmaa, the CEO who was previously senior vice president for the Valio Food business unit. Reetta Tikanmäki, formerly a category manager, will become chief operations officer, while Petteri Leskinen, previously senior vice president for business development, will be chief financial officer. A total of "six individuals forming the business line will transfer to the company", Valio said.

Valio noted Oddlygood sales doubled from 2019 to 2020. A company spokesperson said the goal for Oddlygood this year is to reach sales of around EUR20m (US$24m) but did not provide past-performance figures.

In terms of manufacturing arrangements with potential partners, the spokesperson added Valio will continue to produce the products in Finland for the time being, and is in the process of forming a co-manufacturing partnership in the US.

"We do not see partnerships as giving up [on plant-based products] but rather an opportunity for growth for both parties. We will publish news on partnership agreements as well as, for example, entering new markets as we go along. Partnership agreement details are confidential business secrets," the spokesperson said.

The company said it launched plant-based snacks and drinks in 2018 under the Oddlygood brand before branching out into vegan cheese products, all of which are exported to Sweden, the Baltic countries, Russia, and the US, "among others".

"Valio Oddlygood products already have a strong foothold in Finland and Sweden. Growth with the support of a partnership network offers us a faster track than organic growth to markets where we don't yet have our own sales and distribution network," CEO Vuorenmaa said.

A spin-off of Oddlygood would leave Valio centred on dairy products such as spreads, butter, cheese, milk, and milk powders.

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