January 17, 2024, Riga, Latvia – Food Union Europe, a leading provider of ice cream and other frozen treats to consumers in six European countries, is pleased to announce the appointment of Soren Lauridsen as the Executive Chairman of the organization, effective January 15th, 2024.
“It is with great enthusiasm that we welcome Soren Lauridsen as the Executive Chairman of Food Union Europe. In this pivotal role, Soren will spearhead the pursuit of growth opportunities and operational efficiencies across the Food Union group’s diverse business units. His wealth of experience, vision, and strategic decision-making skills are going to be key assets in setting business priorities and fostering the development of talent within the organization,” said Lincoln Pan, Partner and Co-Head of Private Equity at PAG.
This newly established Executive Chairman position reflects Food Union Europe’s commitment to strategic leadership and growth. Soren Lauridsen will report directly to the Supervisory Board of Food Union Europe, while Arturs Cirjevskis, CEO of Food Europe, will report to him.
“I’m excited to return to Europe, where my professional career in FMCG begun, and particularly to joining Food Union Europe at this pivotal moment. My previous expertise lies in driving long-term business performance through strategic growth, initiative implementation, and fostering diverse, collaborative teams. I look forward to working with the talented teams across Food Union companies, contributing to their continued success. I also want to express my gratitude to our investment partners at PAG and to our Supervisory Board for their trust in this journey of growth and innovation,” added Soren Lauridsen, Executive Chairman of Food Union Europe.
With over 30 years of leadership experience spanning diverse industries, business functions, and countries, Soren Lauridsen’s background includes roles in branding, marketing, and sales within the FMCG industry, with a particular emphasis on ice cream, food, and beverage categories in leading companies in the Nordics and Poland. Since the early 2000s, he has held national and regional leadership roles in the beverages, health, and personal care industries across Asia Pacific countries. For the past 6 years, Soren has been CEO South Asia at Guardian (DFI Retail Group), a leading Health and Beauty retail chain with over 1300 beauty and health stores across Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.
PAG Private Equity, a leading global alternative investment firm, has agreed to acquire a majority controlling interest in Food Union Europe, a leading provider of ice cream and other frozen treats to consumers in six European countries. The transaction, pending final regulatory approval, was executed through the acquisition of equity from the founder and other private stakeholders. Specific financial details are not being disclosed.
“PAG Private Equity has been invested in Food Union Europe since February 2017. We believe strongly in the company’s unrivaled market position across its core markets in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Denmark, Norway and Romania. We look forward to working with the existing management to support Food Union’s continued growth and expansion,” said Lincoln Pan, Partner and Co-Head of Private Equity at PAG.
After the transaction and regulatory approval, which is expected in Q1 2024, full operational control over dairy and ice cream production and direct-to-consumer distribution enterprises in Europe will pass to PAG, an existing stakeholder and Board Member of Food Union Europe entities. These operations include brands in Latvia (Rīgas piena kombināts, Valmieras piens and Premia FFL), Estonia (Premia TKH), Lithuania (Premia KPC), Denmark (Premier Is, Hjem Is and Frast), Norway (Isbjorn Is and Den Norske Isbilen) and Romania (Alpin57Lux).
Arturs Cirjevskis, CEO of Food Union Group in Europe, and the previous general managers of the group companies will continue to manage Food Union Europe. Food Union Europe will continue to operate under its existing corporate name and business structure.
“Food Union today is a strong, resilient, and well-positioned player in regions where further growth is anticipated. This is attributed to historically developed and robust product brands and the company’s focus on product innovation. With ongoing and upcoming investments in manufacturing technologies, automation, and operational excellence in general, we anticipate further strengthening in domestic markets and exports in the coming years,” said Arturs Cirjevskis, CEO of Food Union Group in Europe.
PAG Private Equity is an active investor in the food industry, especially in frozen food. Recent transactions include the acquisition of two leading Australian companies in the food and consumer sector – Patties, a well-known provider of savoury snack, appetiser, meal and dessert brands, and Vesco, a producer of high quality frozen foods in Australia and New Zealand. These acquisitions add to the existing PAG consumer product portfolio, which also includes retail franchises (Craveable Brands), chicken processing and production companies (The Cordina Group and Shandong Fengxiang Co. Ltd.) and dairy producers (Youran Dairy).
As in every autumn-winter season, Latvia’s leading dairy processing company, “Food Union,” has created a new collection for the dessert ice cream brand “Ekselence”. Company has invested around 80 thousand euros in its development, resulting in four spoonable ice creams enriched with carefully selected ingredients, including “Riga Black Balsam.”
Girts Linins, the head of the “Food Union” ice cream brands, emphasizes, “As seasons change, so do the preferences for enjoying ice cream – and now, in the autumn-winter season, spoonable or large-volume ice creams are much more in demand. Therefore, we decided to expand the “Ekselence” range, beloved by many gourmets, with new dessert category ice creams, thus celebrating the 25th anniversary of this brand. Their flavors are inspired not only by classic pastry recipes and ingredients such as brownie and salted caramel but also by our own “Ekselence” ice cream bestsellers.”
For many years, one of Latvia’s favorite ice creams among consumers has been “Ekselence” with “Riga Black Balsam” in the large 1-liter package. To delight fans of this distinctive creamy ice cream, the company introduces two novelties. A completely new dessert ice cream “Ekselence” with “Riga Black Balsam”, cherries, and brownie pieces will now be available in a large package (1 liter). Meanwhile, the previously popular “Ekselence” ice cream with balsam and currants will be available in a new package – a 500 ml cardboard box.
A similar transformation has occurred with another favorite, the walnut and maple syrup dessert ice cream “Ekselence.” If it was previously only available in the large 1 liter package, now this flavorful ice cream will also be available in a smaller 500 ml cardboard package in grocery store freezers. Additionally, fans of the large package (1 liter) will enjoy a new sweet cream ice cream “Ekselence” with pecans and salted caramel.
In total, the “Ekselence” range currently includes 19 different ice cream varieties, available in four formats – single-serving ice creams on sticks, waffle cones, and spoonable dessert ice creams in two sizes. The most popular is the brand’s traditional value since 1998 – dessert ice creams in a 1-liter package, among which the bestsellers are walnut-flavored “Ekselence” with maple syrup and caramelized walnuts, “Ekselence” with “Riga Black Balsam” and currants, as well as the traditional vanilla ice cream.
The new “Ekselence” ice creams are available starting from November on the “Food Union” online store pienaveikals.lv, as well as in major retail chains and smaller local stores throughout Latvia.
Latvia’s leading milk processing and ice cream production company Food Union, which includes production facilities of AS Rīgas Piena Kombināts and AS Valmieras Piens, has closed 2022 with a consolidated turnover of EUR 127.8 million, which is 14.54% more than in 2021 (EUR 111.53 million). Gross profit decreased by 30.58%, from EUR 25.5 million in 2021 to EUR 17.7 million in 2022. The company’s net profit decreased from EUR 2.9 million in 2021 to a loss of EUR 4.3 million in 2022.
The increase in turnover in 2022 is attributable to rising product prices, while the decrease in profit is due to a steep increase in costs of key raw materials and energy resources, which could not be fully covered by product pricing.
“Last year, our strategically most important objective was to adapt to the new market situation, which continued to be affected by the lingering effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on supply chains, as well as the war in Ukraine launched by Russia in early 2022, which has caused a humanitarian catastrophe in the region and economic instability. Despite these challenges, Food Union continued to pursue its long-term strategy of making high value-added products in the dairy and ice cream categories, developing its e-commerce platform Pienaveikals.lv and logistics outsourcing, diversifying its export markets and the ranges of products available there, and implementing a range of sustainability and efficiency initiatives in the production and administrative procedures,” comments Food Union CEO Central Eastern Europe Sergey Beskhmelnitskiy.
In terms of product innovation, Food Union last year demonstrated its ability to flexibly adapt to the changing demand and habits of local customers. Following customer demand, Kārums resumed production of kiwi and strawberry-flavoured curd snacks, and launched brand new flavours – gummy candy and baked apples, cinnamon and cereals. Recognising customer expectations for familiar flavours and positive emotions, Food Union also relaunched the historic Zilonītis yogurt brand and launched a new Dzintars processed cheese with a chicken gyros flavour. In the dairy category, EUR 25,000 was invested in the development of two new Shake Me Up yogurt shakes for the innovative Valmiera brand range – one with cherry and banana flavours and the other with biscuit and cream flavours.
For the summer of 2022, Food Union invested around EUR 80,000 in the development of 10 new ice cream flavours to suit all tastes. At the end of the summer season, the new Jungle Pop ice pop was the most popular ice cream at shops. Food Union also invested approximately EUR 20,000 in the development of two new ice cream flavours for the Ekselence and Tio brands for the autumn season, both available in large family-oriented packaging.
Last year, the company continued successful development of its e-commerce channel Pienaveikals.lv, which has grown from an experiment in 2020 to a fully-fledged sales channel in 2021 with a turnover of over EUR 1 million. In 2022, by adapting to the new habits of customers, Pienaveikals.lv managed to attract 40% more new regular users, increase the number of products in the cart to 700 products and, as a result, almost double its turnover to EUR 1.7 million in the last financial year.
Once the war broke out, Food Union halted cooperation with companies in Russia and Belarus, and exports to Ukraine, the group’s second largest export country before the war, was temporarily interrupted. In 2022, Food Union not only returned to Ukraine with the same volumes as before the war, but also expanded its exports to other markets – Turkey, Norway, the Netherlands, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and increased exports threefold to its existing markets – Poland, Moldova and Estonia. In the reporting year, Food Union exported products worth a total of EUR 35.3 million.
As reported, Food Union’s management strongly condemns the military aggression against the Ukrainian people and in 2022 made several product and financial donations, worth a total of EUR 200,000, to Ukraine and those fleeing the war who have arrived in Latvia.
As a response to the wish of Latvians for a unique Kārums combination of flavors, Latvia’s leading dairy company Food Union has in a record-short period of time developed and started production of Kārums snack specifically designed for the XXVI Nationwide Song and XVII Dance Festival. The curd snack, in which the tenderness of plombiere blends with the taste of poppy seeds so familiar since childhood, is now available at Latvia’s largest stores.
Very soon, the product chosen and produced as part of Kārums’ campaign “Put Together a Chief-curd-snack”, will be available to all singers, dancers and fans of this festival in stores across Latvia throughout the summer. Furthermore, UK-based Latvians will also be able to enjoy this special curd snack.
“Developing new products is a thoroughly thought-out process which takes several months, sometimes even a year. But this time, honoring the tradition of the Song and Dance Festival and appreciating public response to the “Put Together a Chief-curd-snack” campaign, our team put all its energy into creating the popular Kārums curd snack in a record time of less than 2 months. We are delighted that almost all retail chains have shown interest in bringing this special Kārums even to the smallest convenience shops in every corner of Latvia, ensuring a festive feeling for every foodie throughout the summer. We are also delighted about the interest of our partners in the UK – the first export shipment has already been produced and will soon be on its way to delight Latvians of the diaspora,” says Ilva Veidemane, Dairy Brand Project Manager at Food Union.
It has been reported earlier that in the spring of this year, over 30,000 participants joined the “Put Together a Chief-curd-snack” initiative, representing not only the Latvia, but also foreign countries that are home to Latvians. Of the flavor choices offered at www.virssierins.lv – 12 curd flavors, 16 optional added flavors and glazes of 3 flavors – they created 173 unique combinations of flavors. The three most popular of them – a curd snack of the plombiere flavor with poppy seeds in chocolate icing, condensed milk curd snack with condensed milk filling in caramel glaze and a rye breadcrumb curd snack with cranberries and lingonberries – took the lead already at the very start of the initiative. A fierce competition for the Supersnack title continued until the last day of voting, April 3, when the plombiere curd snack Kārums with poppy seeds in chocolate icing won the contest with nearly twice as many votes as the runner-up.
As previously reported, Food Union has also committed to catering for the participants of the Festival who will have come from the regions of Latvia and stay at schools throughout the Festival. Therefore, every participant of the Festival – dancer and choreographer, chorister and conductor, who will come to Riga in June and July to take part in rehearsals and concerts, will be able to enjoy a wide variety of fresh dairy products
The beginning of summer, quality family time in a park and a colossal amount of delicious and new ice creams at melting prices – all of this, as well as an exciting musical and cultural programme featuring performances by popular Latvian musicians, is what the inaugural Riga Ice Cream Festival will offer the public on June 10. The festival will take place from 12 noon to 9 p.m. in the very heart of the capital, Vērmane Garden. It is organized by Latvia’s leading dairy and ice cream company Food Union, while Riga City Council will take care of the cultural and musical programme. The first Riga Ice Cream Festival will close a series of events marking the International Day of Families that will take place in Riga in June.
More than 50 ice creams in one place
What ice creams will be available there? All the most popular ice creams in Latvia, including such brands as Pols, Tio, Ekselence and Jungle Pop that have been loved by generations of ice cream fans. In total, visitors will have the opportunity to taste more than 50 different ice creams from these brands, including ones they have known for a long time and brand new ice creams developed for this summer season. Furthermore, there also will be ice cream cocktails, bubble waffle ice creams and ice creams in all kinds of wafer cones, there will even be an ice cream with coffee! As usual, all the cooling delicacies, made from the highest quality milk and natural additives, are produced at the Food Union production facility in Riga and be available at particularly appealing prices.
“Ice cream is a true ambassador of summer and enjoying an ice cream is a feast in and of itself. We at Food Union want to make this summer even more special by meeting our fans, celebrating and enjoying ice cream once again, and spending quality time together with our families, friends and loved ones. What better way to do it than with ice cream made in Riga, and in one of the most beautiful parks in Riga, Vērmane Garden! We invite all residents of Riga, guests of the city and all those who love ice creams to meet at the first Riga Ice Cream Festival on June 10,” says Ieva Lejniece, Marketing Manager and Member of the Board a Food Union in Latvia.
Creative children’s workshops, recreation for young people and entertainment for parents
The first Riga Ice Cream Festival will delight visitors not only with a broad range of ice creams, but also with free entertainment for all ages and tastes. There will be a special Tio “cocktail zone” with a children’s park, featuring relay races, dexterity challenges and a chef’s workshop for the smallest ones. In the meantime, the tropical Jungle Pop “jungle tent zone” will welcome those who like face painting and mask making. The more active children and teenagers will appreciate entertainment programme of the Pols “refreshment zone”, which will include not only the challenge of making an ice sculpture, but also an inflatable polar bear and a ball pit. Of course, there will also be a special recreational area for adults: the elegant Ekselence cafe, where they will have the opportunity to enjoy ice cream desserts with a cup of delicious coffee in a calmer atmosphere.
A great musical programme
Riga Municipality will provide an impressive cultural and musical programme at the Vērmane Garden. The musical programme will continue from 12 noon to 9 p.m., featuring performances by children’s dance collective Teiksmiņa and musical ensemble Knīpas un Knauķi, and the concert will close with performances by BŪŪ, PRUSAX, Citi Zēni and Carnival Youth.
Did you know that the first heralds of summer are ice creams with new flavours, which are already filling store freezers? Just like every year, Latvia’s leading dairy company Food Union has been thoroughly preparing for this coming summer season, developing a brand new, amazingly tasty collection of ice creams. The new range includes nine Pols and Jungle Pop ice creams, which are very popular with consumers, and more than EUR 85,000 has been invested in the development and launch of the ice creams.
The hottest ice cream trends
“In the development of new products, we follow the hottest ice cream trends at the moment so that every sweet tooth, be it adults or children, could find their new favourite ice cream or even several ice creams this summer. Ice cream recipes with nostalgic and heart-warming flavours of childhood treats, such as marmalade and waffles, are particularly relevant at the moment. Dairy-free ice creams, including juice ice creams, have already found their place in the market. Oddly-shaped ice creams are back in fashion again, with expressive glazed caps or wrapped around a stick. Finally, environmentally-friendly packaging, along with ingredients of the highest quality, has become integral to added value of ice cream brands,” says Ieva Lejniece, Food Union Marketing Manager and Member of the Board in Latvia.
Classic fruits, expressive glaze and sustainable packaging
A summer walk, a trip to the beach or sitting by a fountain in a park – all of this will be remembered more vividly when you eat one of Latvia’s most legendary ice cream brands Pols, which will now be available in three new different versions. Two new Pols ice creams (in 100 g packaging) have been created for ice cream lovers: Banana and Chocolate, and Crunchy Strawberry. Both are available in a large wafer cone and have the characteristic pointed and crispy chocolate glaze cap. And there is also a new Pols on a stick, a strawberry-flavoured ice cream in bright-red strawberry glaze (70 g), created especially for this summer.
It is important to note that the new Pols ice creams are available in sustainable packaging made with 50% organic materials. Therefore, by choosing these products in stores, consumers help to reduce the amount of plastic waste in nature and carbon emissions caused by the production of plastic.
Polar bear’s greetings to families
You can never have too much Pols ice cream, which is why a new, family-sized format has been added to the range of this always relevant brand: ice cream in an 800 ml tub, convenient to keep in the freezer and eat with a spoon. The ice cream is available in three dessert flavours – Pols Jelly Candy, an ice cream made of cream with blackcurrant sauce, marmalade flavour and jelly candies, Pols Waffle Crisps – cream and vanilla ice cream with nougat sauce and crunchy chocolate bits, and Pols Crunchy Chocolate – cream biscuit-flavoured ice cream with milk chocolate-flavoured filling and wafer bits.
These Pols ice creams also come in sustainable packaging, which can be sorted and is 100% recyclable. Furthermore, these plastic tubs can be reused, thus reducing the environmental footprint.
Jungle flavours on a stick
Tropical ice cream brand Jungle Pop presents three new ice creams on a stick. Vegans will appreciate a refreshing ice cream with apple lemonade flavour (60 ml). In addition, Jungle Pop for the first time offers two double-flavoured milk ice creams: one is a combination of greenish pineapple and yellow banana-flavoured ice creams made of cream, and the other one has pink watermelon and light yellow melon-flavoured ice cream on a stick (80 ml).
All new ice cream recipes have been created by local ice cream professionals at the Food Union Ice Cream Competence Centre in Riga, and they are primarily meant for the Latvian market. However, some of the new Pols and Jungle Pop ice creams will soon be exported to Lithuania, Romania, Great Britain, Uzbekistan, Ireland, Iraq and Poland.
The new ice creams are already available at Food Union online store www.pienaveikals.lv, as well as in largest retail chains and smaller convenience stores across Latvia. During May, there will be even more new products at stores popular with Latvian customers.
Latvia’s leading dairy company Food Union has won five awards in two countries in the 2022 study of the most successful new products in the Baltic countries, carried out by international market and consumer research company NielsenIQ. Strawberry curd snack Kārums is ranked first among Latvia’s best new products in 2022.
Ieva Lejniece, Marketing Manager and Member of the Board at Food Union in Latvia: “Development of new products is a very exciting and at the same time complicated process, during which specialists from our Centre of Excellence for Fresh Dairy Products and Ice Cream Competence Centre work to combine three different worlds: the latest food trends, consumer wishes, and technological innovations. That is why the success in the NielsenIQ study is particularly important to us because this is, first of all, a great compliment to our team and, second, a confirmation of our commitment to consumers – to produce delicious, surprising and innovative dairy products and ice creams.”
Two awards in the milk category, one in the ice cream category
Significantly, the best new dairy product in Latvia was the Kārums curd snack, which in 2022 returned to the range of curd snacks produced by “Food Union” in a new vibe after persistent request from consumers. Namely, the first place went to Kārums strawberry curd snack, which was also named the top best new product in Latvia. On the other hand, Pols ice cream in a large waffle cone with chocolate crisps placed first among the best new ice creams in Latvia last year.
Both products are made at Food Union’s main production facility Rīgas Piena Kombināts, located at 180 Bauskas Street in Riga.
2 awards in Estonia
Food Union also recived awards in Estonia, where it is represented by group company Premia THK. Rhubarb ice cream of the Estonian brand Eriti Rammus recived first place in the ice cream category and third on the list of all best new products.
With healthy lifestyles and various diet plans gaining popularity, Latvia’s leading dairy company Food Union has invested 90,000 euros in the development of its most functional brand Lakto. This has resulted in the creation of a truly unique product category – the first fermented dairy product line in Latvia, Lakto Imuno lactose-free and contains 20 billion lactic acid bacteria. The composition of the new products has also been enriched with immunity and energy boosting vitamins A, B6, B12 and D.
The recipe of the lactose-free dairy product Lakto Imuno has been developed by leading food technologists from the Food Union’s Center of Excellence for Fresh Milk Products in Riga. The product is made at the company’s specialized production plant Valmieras Piens in Valmiera. It still is a Lakto product, highly valued by consumers and medical specialists and rich in valuable bacteria. But now, thanks to the improved recipe the product contains no lactose, therefore Lakto Imuno can be used by an even wider range of consumers – including adults and children with lactose intolerance.
For immunity and energy
The lactose-free fermented dairy products of the Lakto Imuno line are available with four natural fruit and berry flavors – pomegranate, mango, raspberry-bilberry, and strawberry-rhubarb. The products of this line contain 20 billion lactic acid bacteria, which stimulate the activity of the digestive system. Vitamins A, B6, B12 and D, which are essential for immunity, provide an additional nutritional value.
The products come packed in small 100 g bottles, and each portion is quite lean- just 62 calories and 8.5 g of sugar per 100 g of product. Importantly – the composition of Lakto Imuno ingredients is consistent with the internationally recognized nutritional value labeling Nutri Score B, which means that these lactose-free fermented dairy products have high and balanced nutritional value, so they can be consumed on a day-to-day basis.
“By creating the innovative Lakto Imuno line, we have taken a significant step not only for our company but also for the entire Latvian food industry. We are glad that these new drinks are not only in line with modern nutritional trends but also delicious. Anyone, be it young moms, kids, people always busy with work or active sporting people, who want to include lactose-free products on their menu, will be able to find their favorite flavor to take a dose of “healthy immunity”,” says Ilona Jaroša, Dairy Brand Manager at Food Union.
The new lactose-free fermented dairy drinks Lakto Imuno are already available at Food Union’s online store www.pienaveikals.lv, Latvia’s largest retail chains Maxima, Rimi, Mego, Narvesen, Lats, Beta, Aibe, Elvi, Top! and Spar, as well as smaller convenience shops.
Will it come in strawberry glaze with biscuit-flavored curd and poppy seeds, or maybe with chocolate covered quince-flavored curd and rye bread crumbs? These are just some of the unique versions of the new curd snack Kārums that will be chosen in a popular vote and created in honor of the “XXVII Nationwide Latvian Song and XVII Dance Festival”.
Kārums curd snacks are our national treat which has never belonged to anyone else but the people. Knowing this, Latvia’s leading dairy company Food Union has always been open to conversation about creation of new curd snack flavors and returning once popular and still unforgotten Kārums curd snacks to the shelves of the stores. Therefore, as Food Union has become a sponsor of the XXVI Nationwide Latvian Song and XVII Dance Festival, the company has committed to creating the Festival’s Chief-curd-snack whose combination of flavors will be chosen by consumers on the company’s new website www.virssierins.lv.
“Our national treasure – the Song and Dance Festival – is proof of what a dedicated and united nation we are. We are also united by the Kārums brand – our national treat common to us all, even though everyone has their own most beloved taste of Kārums, since there are as many opinions about which is the tastiest curd snack as there are choir songs, choreographies and craftsman’s products. Therefore, in honor of the XXVI Nationwide Song and XVII Dance Festival, we invite everyone to come together virtually (for a singalong), to choose the taste of the new Kārums Chief-curd-snack,” says Ieva Lejniece, Food Union Board Member and Head of Marketing in Latvia.
“Collaboration is one of the song festival’s values. None of the 26 song and dance festivals has been created without it. And all of us are proud of it. We are also just as proud of achievements in other spheres that have become nearly canonic and are strongly associated with our country. Also in terms of taste. We are therefore inviting everyone to creative participation by creating your own blend of flavors together with Food Union,” says Daina Markova, Executive Director of the “XXVII Nationwide Latvian Song and XVII Dance Festival”
“Put Together The Chief-curd-snack” initiative will take place in three stages
The first stage starts today, March 14, and will last until April 3. As part of this stage, every sweet-tooth, participant of the festival, volunteer and fan are invited to create their own ideal Kārums curd snack on www.virssierins.lv by choosing flavors for the glaze, curd and additional ingredients.
The second stage will last for two months – in April and May. During that time, masters from Food Union’s Center of Excellence of fresh dairy products will be creating a recipe for the popularly chosen Chief-curd-snack with the most often selected flavors.
The third stage will be the culmination point of the Kārums initiative. Already in June this year, the Chief-curd-snack, chosen by the consumers, will go on sale, becoming Food Union’s special tribute to Latvia’s people, celebrating the XXVI Nationwide Song and XVII Dance Festival. Meanwhile, the company will be catering to participants throughout the festival, providing them with a wide variety of fresh dairy products.
October 19, 2022, Sebes, Alba region, Romania – The Romanian ice cream production and distribution company Alpin57Lux is continuing to strengthen it’s management team with internationally experienced commercial executives in FMCG to further drive the process of business consolidation and change to meet the rapidly evolving indulgence, frozen and convenience markets. Mircea Balan, an experienced marketing and brand building expert in plant-based and other food product categories, has joined the Alpin57Lux team as the Marketing Director, while Ioana Citea, a sophisticated sales executive in ice cream category with over 10 years of experience in Romania, has joined the Alpin57Lux as Head of Modern Trade.
“In a short time since I joined the Alpin57Lux team, together with the local and head office teams, and our close partners we have made a huge leap forward to consolidate available experience and knowledge with future growth outlook and opportunities. Alpin57Lux is a solid player at the regional level, and its potential extends beyond existing geographies, product categories and consumer offerings. Realizing this potential requires a strong and bold team, both locally and internationally experienced and extremely consumer oriented across all of our key business functions. I kindly welcome Mircea and Ioana in the team of Alpin57Lux, part of Food Union Group. I am sure that Mircea and Ioana will become an integral part of our team and will contribute immensely to both business and human growth in our organization,” says Natalia Gelshtein-Kishsh, the new CEO of Alpin57Lux.
The new Alpin57Lux Marketing Director Mircea Balan has an extensive experience in Marketing strategy, Brand building and Portfolio management driving the plant-based category development at Danone, being responsible for Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria & Adriatics markets. His initial professional experience in FMCG marketing was built in Mars Romania for categories such as petcare and gums.
The new Alpin57Lux Head of Modern Trade Ioana Citea has almost 10 years of working experience at Unilever, the leader of Romanian ice cream market, in various Sales and Channel Development positions starting from Key Account Manager to the most recent one – National Key Accounts Manger Ice Cream. She has been responsible for commercial strategy planning and implementation, budget management and pricing strategies, as well as key account development in modern trade, as well as e-commerce.
Alpin57Lux was founded in 1994 and currently employs over 500 people, produces over 100 SKUs with more than 10 brands, amongst which the most well-known are the affordable premium ice cream, Transalpina, the heritage ice cream brand, Fulg de Nea, the no added sugar ice cream, Suplette, and the kid’s ice cream brand, Tedi.
Estonian legacy ice cream producer Premia TKH, part of Food Union Group since 2015, has been acknowledged as the No.1 food producer in Estonia in 2021 according to the top of food producers created by Estonia business newspaper Aripaev. The rapid rise from the 28th place the year before to the honourable first place this year is explained by the excellent sales results during the previous summer season and the work of a united and dedicated team.
Founded in 1951, the ice cream production in Premia began in 1956. Premia specializes in production and distribution of ice cream, indulgence dairy products and wholesale frozen goods under the own brands such as Premia, Eriti Rammus, Vaike Tom, Vana Toomas, Regatt, Maaharra and other. Sales of Premia last year reached EUR 35.2 million, which is 13% more than in 2020, when total sales of Premia was EUR 31.1 million. In total 203 employees work at Premia production and warehouse.
“Last year was great for us, an ice cream manufacturer. In June-July we set sales records that I have never seen before, even though I have been in this for almost 30 years now. Also August sales exceeded our expectation, because as a rule, it is when ice cream sales begin to decline. It saved us a lot. But at the end of the year, all prices – raw materials and energy – began to rise slowly, and now this price rise has been continuous,” Aivar Aus, Chairman of the Board of Premia, sums up the situation briefly.
The most beloved Baltic brands were awarded in the ceremony of the Baltic Brand Ranking on September 21. Food Union product brands have been highly recognized in Latvia and the Baltics, taking top spots in the ranking and earning awards in 23 categories in total. The dairy product brand Kārums remains an undisputed leader among most loved food industry brands in Latvian and across the Baltics.
Food Union brand Kārums earned the top praise on the Baltic scale ranking first among the most loved food products in the Baltic States. In the category of Most Loved Baltic Brands, Kārums climbed 3 positions to the respectable 16th place.
In the national competition, Food Union brands earned praise and won valuable awards in several categories. Kārums, the brand of curd snacks and other dairy treats, won the title of Most Loved Local Food Product. Among ice cream brands – Ekselence ranked 2nd, Pols 3rd and Tio 4th, while Karlsons took 5th place.
In the category of Most Loved Ice Creams in Latvia, 1st place was awarded to the gourmet ice cream brand Ekselence. The legendary, bold and eternally youthful Pols ranked 2nd and the best cocktail ice cream Tio came 3rd, while Karlsons, which marks the 30th anniversary this year, was ranked 4th.
In the category Most Loved Dairy Products in Latvia, 1st place went to Kārums and Dzintars was named 2nd best loved brand in this category. Valmiera products won 3rd place and Limbazu Piens 4th place. The popular fermented drink and yogurt brand Lakto took 7th place.
In Estonia, the ice cream brand Eriti Rammus took 2nd place in the category of Most Loved Producer in Estonia. Meanwhile, Kārums took 5th place in the category Most Loved Dairy Product in Estonia.
Products of Food Union Group dominated the category of Most Loved Ice Creams also in Estonia, with Eriti Rammus taking the top spot, children’s ice cream Väike Tom ranking 3rd and the legendary Premia ice cream taking the 4th position.
Most loved brands have been ranked for 18th time in Latvia and for 11th time in across the Baltics.
July 20, 2022, Sebes, Alba region, Romania – Natalia Gelshtein-Kishsh, an experienced FMCG business leader with a successful track record in various Central European markets has been appointed the new CEO of Alpin57Lux, the Romanian ice cream production and distribution business which is part of the Food Union Group. Alpin57Lux was founded in 1994 and currently employs over 500 people, produces over 100 SKUs with more than 10 brands, amongst which the most well-known are the affordable premium ice cream, Transalpina, the heritage ice cream brand, Fulg de Nea, the no added sugar ice cream, Suplette, and the kid’s ice cream brand, Tedi.
“We are pleased to announce that Natalia Gelshtein-Kishsh, an accomplished FMCG professional with over 15 years of managerial experience has joined the Food Union Group to lead our Romanian business unit. She will be responsible for the implementation of the next stage of the group’s expansion in Romania. She will focus on a further and deeper understanding of consumer needs, use of commercial technologies and digital marketing tools to facilitate a deeper interaction of our product brands within our target markets, a refinement of our product portfolio and the achievement of enhanced sales results. We are excited to work with and support Natalia and our Romanian team,” said Lincoln Pan, Partner and Co-Head of Private Equity at PAG.
Natalia Gelshtein-Kishsh has, for the past 15 years, furthered her career at Danone focussing on various markets and performing different roles, commencing as Sales Director in the Czech Republic, and in the Ukraine and Russia. She fulfilled her aspiration to lead the regional business as a whole following her appointment as Market Director of Romania, Bulgaria and Adriatic Countries in April 2017. Natalia also worked for 3 years at Danone Russia as the Modern Trade & On-Premise Director. Natalia’s earliest management assignment was with The Coca-Cola company in Russia starting as Brand Manager in 1998 and thereafter as National Key Account Manager between 2000 and 2003.
“I am honoured to join the team in Romania, as well as the international team of Food Union Europe. It is a new challenge for me, and a fantastic opportunity for all of us to build further on the strengths of the local team and its dedication to the business, the heritage of the family company, the sound and professional business practices already existing within the Food Union Group, their leadership positions in ice cream specifically in the Baltics countries, all of our cumulative experiences as well as the Romanian market opportunities,” says Natalia Gelshtein-Kishsh, the new CEO of Alpin57Lux.
Alpin 57 Lux is one of the largest ice cream companies in Romania. Founded by Ioan Istrate as a family business in 1994, the company became part of the international ice cream and dairy player, the Food Union Group, in 2016. With decades of experience since its foundation and continuous growth and focus on innovation, Alpin 57 Lux is among the leading traditional players in ice cream, pastry and frozen food segments. Alpin 57 Lux employs over 500 people and produces over 100 SKUs with more than 10 brands, amongst which the most well know are the affordable premium ice cream Transalpina, Fulg de Nea with its black cone which won the “Product of the year title for innovating in ice cream category” in 2021, heritage ice cream brands such as Polar and Sandwich, the no added sugar ice cream Suplette and kid’s ice cream brands such as Tedi (licensed brand, owned by Maspex Group Poland).
Since 2001, Alpin 57 Lux has produced and distributed a wide range of pastries and frozen bakery products, which constitute around 20% of total sales of Alpin 57 Lux together with its frozen food products. Alpin 57 Lux operates its factory in Sebeș, Alba County. The factory is located on a new industrial platform, with modern production and storage spaces complying with IFS Food version 7, ISO 22 000:2018 and BSCI – The Business Social Compliance Initiative.
ABOUT FOOD UNION
The Food Union Group is a leading, innovative consumer goods company that develops local brands and delivers delightful products in Europe, China and Pacific Asia. Food Union is currently the leading ice cream producer in the Baltics and Denmark, and the group holds a strong market position in Norway and Romania. The leading dairy group is backed by Hong Kong-based investment company Meridian Capital Limited, and one of Asia’s largest private capital firms, PAG.
Dynamic momentum, continued growth, and commitment to innovation are the markers of success in the 10-year anniversary of one of the leading regional ice cream and dairy groups in Europe
Overview of Results
Food Union, one of Europe’s leading ice cream and dairy producing and distributing groups, is pleased to announce its annual results for 2021. Net revenue remained the same as in 2020 – EUR 291 million with new record ice cream sales achieved in June and July. Profits rose to EUR 10.8 million, up 30%, following significant investment in new products, automatization and e-commerce.
Over 140 novelty ice creams were introduced across six markets in 2021, with Food Union now holding a leading market position in the Baltics and Denmark, and strong Top 3 positions in Norway and Romania. According to Nielsen, the Group’s novelty products were among the best-performing newcomers in the markets, which raised the value of many of the Group’s strong brands.
The performance was supported by the Group’s continued development of dynamic routes to market through e-commerce solutions. Beyond supporting sales, it improved customers’ overall experience by ensuring quick and timely delivery, broadening the product range, and introducing an assortment of goods produced by partners. As a result, during the year the Group almost tripled revenues from the e-commerce revenue channel, with three-digit year-on-year growth recorded in most markets.
Total net cash used for investing activities reached EUR 12.3 million, with EUR 2.8 million invested in truck upgrades working towards the mission to build an effective and green fleet across the Group. A further EUR 8 million was invested into property assets and equipment.
Post yearend, in January 2022, a new CEO of Food Union Europe was appointed, with Artūrs Čirjevskis recruited internally into the role. Artūrs has an in-depth understanding of the Group, having previously held the role of Chief Financial Officer of Food Union Europe for five years, where he was instrumental in its success and enhanced operational efficiency. He has garnered previous CEO experience at one of the Food Union Latvia production plants SIA Rigas Piensaimnieks. He also held the revered position of an international economics course lecturer at Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration.
Food Union’s business development Europe, focusing on e-commerce and DSD segment, will be led by BDO Sergey Beskhmelnitskiy, former CEO of Food Union in Baltics. However, the implementation of commercial strategy in Denmark, Norway, and Romania will be supported by CCO Aivar Aus, CEO of Premia TKH, Estonian flagship ice cream producer and No.1 ice cream brand in Estonia.
Artūrs Čirjevskis, CEO of Food Union, Europe, said “As we reached the end of a decade, Food Union continued to make major strides in building power brands in key markets with significant innovations across the business, from product to distribution. These results were achieved against difficult market conditions with longer COVID-19 lockdowns and rapidly rising material prices. Going forward and based on our impressive customer base in DSD segment we aim to develop in-depth client relationships and become their reliable partner in categories beyond ice cream.”
Financial Highlights (EUR million):
|Cash flow generated from operating activities
Food Union will continue to focus on deeper operational optimization and integration between the Group’s companies, especially in the Northern European markets. The ongoing investments into the automatization and digitalization of operations will continue to strengthen the Group’s ability to adjust to the uncertainties and developments in the world, at the same time as staying committed to our core mission – focusing on the well-being of people by delivering products that resonate with consumer needs.
Food Union – a leading international ice cream and dairy production and distribution group – has demonstrated its continued commitment to innovation and delighting consumers with its 2022 launch of summer novelties. Food Union has invested in the development of around 80 unique products across global markets, including its key markets such as Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Norway, Denmark, and Romania.
In anticipation of the summer months, and leveraging their strength in agile product innovation and development, Food Union has created a spectrum of novel ice creams that will delight consumers spanning healthy alternatives of vegan and low-cal ice cream through to bold experiments with mixology of crispy, crunchy and juicy textures, as well as carefully designed flavors that meet local preferences.
“Our approach to developing and launching new and exciting ice cream novelties stands out in the new product portfolio of 2022. It has products that represent global trends and very classic and locally recognizable flavours in a new interpretation. It contains exciting products for children and products for very mature and refined tastes. It has ice creams rich in cream and low-calorie and vegan products. Finally, this portfolio is designed to make ice cream available to anyone,” says Artūrs Čirjevskis, CEO of Food Union in Europe.
The 2022 novelties are grounded in trends that are shaping the industry:
Healthy alternatives for a healthier life. Consumers in the post-Covid era have become more health-conscious, with consumers looking for both vegan and low-calorie ice creams. Food Union continues to prioritize the development of numerous products to cater for alternative diets:
Creating and refining trusted, timeless classics. Ice cream lovers have always been divided into those who seek adventure and excitement, and those who respect values and traditions. The latter often focus on only few flavors of ice creams, for which various alternatives have been enhanced to ensure these trusted classics deliver on quality, recipe, and taste balance. For these exquisite ice cream lovers, Food Union has provided a range of world-renowned classic flavors, releasing new quintessential delights:
A playground of adventurous flavours. Those, who perceive ice cream enjoyment as an adventure, can’t wait for the summer to push their own flavour boundaries with new, exciting cold delicacies. This is true with respect to both young ice cream lovers and adults, for whom life is still one big playground. Food Union respects this ‘joie de vivre’ and this year has created a wide and youthful range of ice creams in different shapes, sizes, and designs – from crazy flavoured creamy ice cream to refreshingly jolly juice lollies.
Nostalgic flavours that tap into the local preferences. Although love for ice cream is universal, people in different parts of the world have slightly different taste preferences related to local products, local traditions and childhood nostalgia. Food Union knows its customers well in its home markets, so every year it delights with flavors that are close to the hearts of the Balts and Scandinavians:
Complex Mixology. Food Union utilizes the power of mixology to inspire exciting new tastes and create ice cream that evokes an experimental joy by utilizing unique flavours across the spectrum.
In solidarity with Ukraine’s fight for freedom, Latvia’s leading milk processing and ice cream production company Food Union has created a special ice cream in the colours of the Ukrainian national flag. With a symbolic purpose, the ice cream recipe incorporates floral flavours made from natural materials: elder and cornflower in the blue part of the ice cream and the softness of saffron in the yellow part, creating a unique composition of flavours. The cold delicacy has been named “Слава України” (Glory to Ukraine), a slogan expressing support for Ukrainian sovereignty and resistance.
“This ice cream is a tribute to the courage and love of freedom of the Ukrainian people. More importantly, it is a reminder to every resident of Latvia that a terrible war is still going on in Ukraine, therefore we must continue to help its people even after the first wave of support has subsided,” emphasizes Food Union Director General in Latvia Irēna Holodnaja. “Development of an ice cream dedicated to Ukraine was an emotionally significant event for our team. Everyone involved in the development of the ice cream had a sense of belonging and the opportunity to support Ukrainians through what we do best – developing and producing delicious products of very high quality. Our experience from 2018, when we created ice creams in the colours of the national flags of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania to celebrate their 100th anniversary, also came in handy,” adds Irēna Holodnaja.
The ice cream dedicated to Ukraine was presented to the public for the first time today, June 18, when Blue-Yellow Ice Cream Festival was organized for the Ukrainian community at day centre Common Ground. Ice cream lovers young and old not only had a chance to be the first to taste “Слава України” ice cream, but also other most popular and delicious ice creams produced by Food Union, meet clown doctors, play football and blow big soap bubbles.
“We are grateful to every person and company that continues to provide assistance, so that people who have found refuge in Latvia from the protracted war in their country could realistically hope for peace and a quick return home. Thank you Food Union for a special product dedicated to the community of Ukrainians! What else if not ice cream can bring so much joy and a bit of comfort in the summer season,” says Common Ground founder Ieva Irbina.
The blue-and-yellow ice cream will be available free of charge to residents of Ukraine at the Riga Support Centre (1 Kaļķu Street) and the Common Ground day centre for Ukrainian residents (17 Andrejostas Street 27), as well as at Ekselence summer booths in Riga and Jūrmala upon presentation of Ukrainian ID documents.
In addition, “Слава України” ice cream in limited quantities will be available for purchase from June 18 on Food Union online store Pienaveikals.lv and at Ekselence summer booths in Riga and Jūrmala. EUR 1 from each ice cream sold will be donated to Ukrainian children’s protection organization “Голоси дітей” (Children’s Voices) with the support of Ziedot.lv.
As reported, since March 9 of this year, Food Union has been supporting the Riga Support Centre for Ukrainian residents with fresh dairy products on a daily basis: sour cream, Rasa butter, Limbažu Piens milk and cheeses, Dzintars cheeses, Lakto yogurts, Kārums curd snacks and desserts, milk beverages Rasēns. According to Pēteris Grūbe, head of the Riga Support Centre for Ukrainians, these deliveries provide meals for more than 700 people each day. Several truckloads of dry milk powder and milk beverages have also been shipped to Ukraine to support the Ukrainian army, hospitals and national defence units. Cream cheese Rasa, which was stored in Ukrainian warehouses and was intended for sale, was donated to local residents once the war started.
Highly awaited news for the lovers of the Kārums brand – following repeated consumer suggestions, Food Union, the leading dairy processing company in Latvia, has resumed the production of two once beloved cheese curd snacks in a new interpretation. As a result, two products have returned to store shelves for the pleasure of consumers – strawberry Kārums in a strawberry flavored glaze, as well as baked apple, cinnamon and grain curd snacks in the classic Kārums chocolate glaze.
The recipes for both of the new curd snacks are a modern reproduction of nostalgic flavors. They were inspired by the food technologists of the Food Union Center for Excellence of Fresh Dairy Products by researching the historical recipes of Kārums: the strawberry curd snack was first produced in 1995, but the apple-cinnamon snack – in 2003. And just like before, the main ingredient of these legendary snacks is the unique curd only characteristic to Kārums, which is made from the freshest and highest quality milk.
“An interesting coincidence – two years ago, the iconic symbol of Kārums, the famous Kārums crow, returned to the packaging of our curd snacks, and since then we have often received many, many requests from Kārums fans to resume production of various favorite curd snacks. We have heard these suggestions, and now we are introducing to consumers new, modern versions of strawberry and apple-cinnamon curd snacks that will delight both the brand’s longtime fans and a new generation of snack lovers,’’ said Ilva Veidemane, the brand manager of Food Union dairy products.
The new products are produced at the Kārums curd production plant opened in 2020, which is located in the territory of the Food Union group company Rīgas Piena Kombināts. The company invested EUR 5.5 million in the construction and equipping of the plant with modern technological production lines.
Those who cannot wait until summer will appreciate the fresh and summery taste and aroma of the Kārums strawberry curd snack (60% curd). The second innovative snack – Kārums (56% curd) with fried apples, cinnamon and oatmeal, barley and rye flakes will help to fill the belly and warm the soul.
Both new Kārums curd snacks are already available in the Food Union online store www.PienaVeikals.lv, as well as in such popular supermarket chains in Latvia as Rimi, Mego, Vesko, Lats, Aibe, Elvi and Top!. The sale of these products in the rest of the Baltics will also soon be launched. In total, the company has invested about EUR 30,000 in the development and launch of these two new products in the Baltic market.
Kārums is one of the most beloved food brands in Latvia and the Baltics. The famous curd snack was first produced in Latvia in the late 1940s, and it immediately became a favorite breakfast delicacy and snack for children and adults alike. In 1993, this cult product acquired a new identity – the name Kārums. Since then, the brand has not only developed a wide range of delicacies made from the best milk, but also developed a bright, cheerful personality and a sincere sense of humor. More information about the brand: https://karums.eu, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok.
About Food Union group:
“Food Union” is the largest dairy company in Latvia and the leading ice cream producer in the Baltic countries. “Food Union” group is made up of three largest dairy companies and ice cream makers in Latvia – “Rigas Piena Kombinats”, “Valmieras Piens”, and “Rigas Piensaimnieks” (“Rigas Piena Kombinats” joined in February 2020), Estonia’s largest ice cream maker “Premia” and “Premia” in Lithuania, the leading Danish ice cream producer “Premier Is” and Danish ice cream distribution company “Hjem Is”, Norway’s ice cream company “Isbjørn Is” and ice cream delivery service company “Den Norske Isbilen”, Romanian ice cream maker “Alpin57Lux”. In 2018 “Food Union” opened two dairy and children’s product plants in China. In 2020, “Food Union” group achieved EUR 294 million in turnover. “Food Union” group companies currently employ over 3,100 persons. More information about the company can be found here www.foodunion.lv, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.