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From side streams to durable cutlery

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The five-year target is a turnover of over EUR 40 million. For Nature Line Cutlery Oy, which is aiming at a turnover of approximately EUR 9 million this year, the target is of course tough but realistic, says Factory Director Niina Haapasalo. 

In Outokumpu Industrial Park, Nature Line Cutlery's production lines work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In five shifts, over 50 employees make forks, knives, as well as tablespoons and coffee spoons for retailers, wholesalers and HoReCa customers: available to all of us consumers. In Finland, large customers include K and S groups. Europe is the company’s main market for growth. Nature Line products are available in more than 20 countries worldwide.

Nature Line Cutlery Oy is a privately owned Finnish company, founded as a result of a business acquisition, in January 2020. The company's production is located in Outokumpu in North Karelia. A modern production facility of approximately 2,000 square metres, in Outokumpu Industrial Park, was introduced in spring 2022. The expansion work is already under way; approximately 1,000 square metres of additional space will be available during the current year. 

Beads from side streams 

The EU decided to ban single-use cutlery by 2021. As the story of single-use consumption was coming to an end, Nature Line had already started development work with UPM. 

The solution was found in the side streams of the forest industry. Nature Line cutlery is made from wood fibre from Finnish sawmills and renewable Bio-polypropylene based on tall oil separated in pulp production. In this unique manufacturing process, no new raw material is needed.

The story continues after the photo.

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UPM's raw material is driven with a truck from Lahti to Outokumpu once a week. The granulate bead with a diameter of approximately three millimetres is a complete product ready for production. At the Outokumpu factory, the main stages of the production process are drying, injection moulding and packaging. Production is largely automated and operates according to the highest food safety standards.

- There are also competitors on the markets, currently the most significant ones in Poland. Our clearest competitive advantages are responsibility, product safety and user experience. It all starts with the responsibility and origin of the raw material. The production generates virtually no waste, we ensure this through efficient internal use of materials. The use of plastic in packaging is also reduced all the time, says Niina Haapasalo.

According to Haapasalo, food and occupational safety is not compromised; continuous improvement is a key value for the company. 

From disposable to durable

Nature Line has three cutlery categories: Essential, Premium and Luxury. The material in the cutlery is the same, the difference is in design and weight. In designing the collection, Nature Line also uses external designers. In terms of design and material, the utensils are also suitable for a fancier table setting. 

- The material and design are close to those of steel cutlery. All our cutlery are machine washable and reusable. In our own washing tests, the durability is at least 125 machine washes.  

"Five steps ahead”

Niina Haapasalo started working as the Factory Director of Nature Line Cutlery in summer 2022. High-quality growth and development expertise was sought for the factory's management. Haapasalo had been growing that knowledge capital in John Deere Forestry's production development tasks, in Joensuu, for the past ten years.

-  When production started in 2020, there were about ten employees and approximately EUR 2.5 million in turnover. Last year, the turnover rose to 6.8 million, this year it will be nearly 9 million. With expansions to the facilities and investments in machinery, the capacity will be sufficient to reach EUR 20 million. In five years' time, the goal is to exceed 40 million, says Factory Director Niina Haapasalo.

Nature Line Cutlery's first steps have been a success story, but not just a walk in the park, Haapasalo reminds. Haapasalo believes the future of the high-growth company will entail a lot of challenges, things to be refined and developed.

-  One must be at least five steps ahead of the present situation, at all times. We must ensure that nothing will hinder the growth. It is also clear that the direction of sustainable development, directives and other legislative requirements will continue to boost our growth.

Acknowledging partnerships

Nature Line Cutlery is currently the strongest growing company in the Outokumpu Industrial Park. Factory Director Haapasalo praises the cooperation with the Industrial Park and the city of Outokumpu. 

- Cooperation with partners important to us; the Industrial Park, the city and also Business Joensuu, has been seamless. We have been acknowledged and involved in the work and development. Examples include Business Joensuu's Go Plastic! campaign and Outokumpu's regional energy efficiency study to be launched. 

Nature Line has also utilised Business Joensuu's expertise in its investment projects, as well as in personnel and recruitment needs.  

Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen/Viestintä Ässä Oy
Photos: Jarno Artika

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