Birkkala Farm

About This Project

Birkkala Farm [Birkkalan tila] is a family-owned business in the second generation specialized in the production of organic spelt. The company’s spelt products are sold in the home market to both consumers and companies (e.g., hotels, restaurants, and industry). During the last years Birkkala Farm has invested increasingly in exports. International activities have interested entrepreneur Simo Larmo for a longer time, but exporting became a reality in 2016 when investments increased the production capacity. However, there was no previous export experience or knowledge within the company, so the export journey has been a big learning process. During this the company has relied on, for instance, Viexpo’s complimentary advice in export business.


The Finnish food market especially when it comes to special plants is quite small. When it comes to organic spelt, Birkkala Farm has for quite some time had a good market position. As a result of investments, the company’s production capacity grew, and when they were thinking about how to use the surplus, the answer was exports. The entrepreneur Simo Larmo had for quite some time been interested in international activities, but there was no previous export experience or knowledge in the company. Despite this, the family-owned business decided to bravely try what works and what does not.


First, the company headed to the e-commerce giant Amazon, which proved to be a good test.


We were a couple of years in the Amazon online store and sold especially consumer products. It worked as a good test during which we got feedback from our clients proving that our price level and product quality is good. People even got excited about it, although we are talking about basic products like flour and flakes, Simo Larmo says.


Birkkala Farm gradually started to get importer contacts, even though the volumes were small in the beginning. As time went by, it became clear for the company that exporting retail goods was perhaps not the right way to go for them. The company shifted first to selling skimmed and graded spelt loaded directly in trucks, and today the company focuses especially on exporting bagged goods.


Nowadays we aim at exporting bagged goods in order to get full trucks and appropriate volumes. It is about spelt flour and products in different forms in 20 kilos bags.


Today there are several target countries of which Norway is the biggest at the moment. The Netherlands is however growing rapidly to perhaps becoming the biggest export market. Israel, Turkey, and Czech Republic are other examples. The company’s experimentation culture has been key in driving this development.


We have changed and developed our export activities through doing things. The basic principle has been that we go and do something. That is why we wanted to go to Amazon’s online store, since it is an easy way to test and get something done. Gradually the idea of what is the actual core has become clearer.


Viexpo has also had an important role in enhancing Birkkala Farm’s export activities. The company has utilized Viexpo’s complimentary advice in export business and within that especially Senior Advisor Kåre Björkstrand’s services. This is since Kåre has special knowledge in food export.


Kåre has done exports himself and he knows practical things. For instance, size of packaging, what kind of pallets are appropriate, finding a suitable logistics company, contracts and other documents that can be hard to understand for yourself, but Kåre has some kind of idea what they mean. It is about how you do export business in practice since there is an own language and practicalities to it.


Complimentary advice in export business have been of a great benefit for a small company.


It has been of invaluable help. Especially when you do not have previous export background and you cannot hire an export manager, these kinds of advisory services where you get concrete advice are of great value. It has made our operations easier and given assurance that we are doing the right things. In addition, it signals to importers that we are a professional actor.


Simo Larmo describes the cooperation as a low threshold, easy activity.


The collaboration has been quite straightforward. I have called or sent email and asked how the thing goes, how they have done before, and so on.


In the future, Birkkala Farm sees that growth comes particularly through export. The intention is to participate in international fairs like Food Ingredients Europe in Germany.


Our growth in the future comes definitely from exports. The goal of a product that we just launched is that at least half of its sales comes from abroad. The volumes and interest for a more special product are there.


Simo Larmo also sees that collaboration, peer-to-peer support and sparring between companies is of great importance.


One reason for us to start exporting was that we could look at other small companies who had started exporting. Now we can share knowledge of how we have done things. Hopefully also small companies get increasingly encouraged to do exports.


When asked about tips to give to companies planning to start exporting, Simo Larmo has a clear message.


I have said to all that if you are even slightly thinking about export, stop thinking and start doing it one way or another. The most important thing is to take the first step and to activate yourself, since an endless market even for stranger products may open up.


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