CEO’s Review H1/2023

CEO’s Review H1/2023

Esa Mäki, CEO:

“Apetit’s result continued to develop positively. In the second quarter, the Group’s operating profit improved year-on-year. Both businesses improved their results. In Oilseed Products, the result has been improved by successful raw material sourcing. In Food Solutions, the improvement in result was influenced by successful product launches and by the price increases, made as a response to the general increase in costs. Result for the first half of the year improved clearly year-on-year.

In the second quarter, Apetit Group’s net sales decreased slightly from the comparison period. The prices of oilseed products were exceptionally high in the comparison period, and the stabilisation of market prices could be seen as a decrease in net sales. However, sales volumes increased year-on-year. In Food Solutions, sales volumes and net sales have increased in all channels.

The effects of cost inflation can be seen in consumer purchasing behavior. When buying food, consumers prefer more affordable products. At the same time, traditional, easy-to-prepare dishes, such as casseroles, have again become more popular. This can also be seen as changes in the demand for Apetit’s products as demand varies between different product groups. Our product range meet the consumers’ needs well. Frozen vegetables are an easy way to eat healthy and at the same time reduce food waste.

The harvest season has proceeded fairly well. The hot and dry weather in the early summer reduced the first batch of the frozen pea harvest. The pea fields harvested later have yielded a harvest that is in line with expectations, in terms of both quality and quantity. For root vegetables, the growing season is still ongoing. The outlook is good, thanks to rains that came at a good time in July.

For domestic spring oilseed plants, the growing season has been hampered by the hot and dry early summer. The rapeseed cultivation area has decreased year-on-year, which is not in line with our targets. As Finland is not entirely self-sufficient in oilseed plants, there is a genuine need to increase the cultivation area.

In June, we announced a significant step in promoting the cultivation of domestic oilseed plants. Apetit was the driving force in the establishment of the new oilseed plant production development group, RypsiRapsi-foorumi. The forum brings together different stakeholders in the oilseed plant sector. It compiles the results of earlier research activities and produces new farming knowledge. Through this forum, we want to provide farmers with practical information and efficient methods for the cultivation of oilseed plants. The goal is to promote the cultivation of rapeseed and its profitability in Finland.

The work to commercialize the rapeseed ingredient BlackGrain continues. During the first half of the year, we have focused on developing the production process. Measures to start commercial scale production are underway. BlackGrain offers the food industry a new domestic plant protein alternative that supports the implementation of the circular economy and the development of sustainable and high-quality food solutions.

The use of steam produced with biogas was started in harvest-time production at the Säkylä frozen foods plant as part of the plant’s new energy solution. The new energy solution, based on renewable energy sources and heat recovery, will reduce the plant’s CO2 emissions by approximately 80 per cent. From now on, steam used at the Säkylä frozen foods plant is mainly produced with bioenergy. At the same time, the amount of primary energy needed decreases by approximately one third. As a result of the deployment of the new energy solution, the Group now uses mainly renewable energy sources. Already in 2022, a total of 76 per cent of the energy used by Apetit came from renewable sources.

During the review period, we made a lot of progress towards our corporate responsibility programme’s goal of increasing the recyclability of packaging. Early this year, the use of recyclable plastic started in the Apetit Potato Onion product family, accounting for high sales volumes. The first frozen soups packaged in PECF-certified paperboard will be available in shops in the autumn. All frozen soups will be packaged in PEFC-certified paperboard by the end of 2024.”

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CEO’s review Q3/2022

Esa Mäki, CEO “Both businesses showed a profit in the third quarter. However, the increase in costs, which has influenced the operations from beginning of the year, still impaired the Q3 result, which was slightly lower than in the comparison period. In Oilseed Products, the result improved from the comparison period. The result for the review period was improved by the transfer some of the higher costs to sales prices. The fact that raw material prices levelled off supported profit performance, but profitability is still impaired by high costs, such as energy and logistics costs. In Food Solutions, both net sales and sales volumes grew in the third quarter especially in the food service sector. In retail trade, sales volumes and net sales remained on a par with the comparison period’s high level. In exports, sales did not reach the comparison period level. A significant factor in the decrease in net sales of exports is the postponement of pea deliveries. In Food Solutions, the effects of the cost inflation have already been transferred to prices, but the price changes will mainly enter into force at the beginning of October. In particular, high energy costs, which had increased from the comparison period, had a negative impact on the result. This harvest season has been successful for Finnish vegetables. The Finnish frozen pea harvest was good in terms of both quantity and quality and also in line with the targets set. The root vegetable harvest season has gone well, too. For instance, the harvest of carrots grown under carrot netting is qualitatively and quantitatively good. We continued our domestic vegetable research and development activities with making the cultivation technique more efficient for chickpeas and cauliflower, among other things. During the research period, chickpeas were collected with pea harvesters for the second time. Based on the lessons learned from the previous harvest season, some changes were made to harvesting, which resulted in positive experiences. Apetit is a stable buyer for domestic rapeseed. We will continue our efforts to increase the cultivation area and harvest size of domestic oilseed plants in Finland. With the higher price level, oilseed plants, well suited to crop rotation, are now an attractive option to farmers also in terms of profitability. According to the September harvest estimate of Natural Resources Institute Finland, the rapeseed harvest in Finland would increase by more than 35 per cent from last year. This increase was definitely needed after the modest oilseed plant harvest in the last year. Nevertheless, the harvest volume is still clearly below the average harvests over the last ten years. Domestic rapeseed oil is valued and in high demand in all sales channels: industry, professional kitchens and retail. The innovative BlackGrain rapeseed ingredient, which is currently in small-scale production, responds to the future global need to increase the availability of plant-based proteins. In our development efforts we have made development in moving the production to an industrial scale. In its corporate responsibility programme, Apetit has committed to reducing its direct emissions by 75 per cent by 2025. The most significant emission reductions are achieved from energy solutions: the introduction of electricity generated with wind power and the Kantvik bioenergy plant, which was commissioned last year. At the Säkylä plant, the goal is to commission the energy solution based on heat recovery and gas produced with bioenergy during the second quarter of 2023. Work on the plot of the Säkylä frozen foods plant have already started, with the aim of having us closer to our ambitious emission reduction target already next year, as scheduled. The new energy solution will reduce the Säkylä plant’s CO2 emissions by up to 80 per cent. Our significant investment in the Pudasjärvi frozen pizza plant is completed. At the turn of September-October, frozen pizzas baked with sourdough have arrived in shops from our renewed frozen pizza plant. The delicious frozen pizzas, made in Finland mainly with domestic raw materials, have been welcomed warmly by consumers. With these new high-quality pizzas, we will grow our market share in the significant frozen pizza product category. Our efforts to promote a sustainable food supply chain and improve profitability continues.”

CEO's review H1/2022

Esa Mäki, CEO: “The net sales of Apetit Group’s continuing operations increased significantly, but profitability was lower than in the comparison period. In Food Solutions, the main challenge from profitability’s perspective was inflation that affects production inputs. In Oilseed Products, significantly increased raw material and logistics costs reduced profitability. However, demand for products in both businesses remained high. The increase in costs continued during the second quarter, and the sales price increases to be made are a response to cost inflation that has already been realised. In Food Solutions, customer price increases will enter into force gradually in late summer and in the autumn. In Oilseed Products, the introduction of higher sales prices will be slower due to agreement structures and the more extensive customer base. There is very good demand for domestic rapeseed oil in all sales channels. The successfulness of the current cultivation when it comes to the availability and price of oilseed plant raw material is significant for our profitability. According to recent surveys, an increasing number of consumers has changed their purchasing behaviour as the price of food has increased. Apetit’s products have a strong position in retail trade as the only Finnish option and market leader of frozen vegetable products, which contributes to safeguarding demand for our products also in the changed circumstances. Apetit’s products are of high quality and have competitive prices. They are also a good match with the prevailing food trends of easier daily life, domestic origin, well-being, plant-based food, and sustainability. The construction of the pizza production line in Pudasjärvi started in May and proceeded as planned during the summer. The approximately EUR 2 million investment was completed in July, and commercial production on the new line started at the beginning of August. New pizzas will be available in shops’ frozen food sections in October. Our goal is to challenge our foreign competitors by baking pizzas with sourdough, using domestic raw materials as much as possible and ensuring the deliciousness with stonebaking. In Säkylä, we have continued investments in production efficiency improvements. The reception of peas at the start of the production line started during the summer. For its part, this eliminates production bottlenecks and improves our opportunities to increase pea production capacity in the future. The harvest expectations for field vegetables are hopeful. The hot weather in early summer did not continue too long for plants, and rainfall has been mainly even throughout the growing season in our cultivation areas. After a couple of weaker years, the pea harvest is also expected to be good. Cooler weather has also contributed to the more even development of peas, which is good for pea quality and the smoothness of production. For oilseed plants, the conditions during the summer growing season have been generally favourable so far. In the Baltic countries, harvesting started on time, and in Finland, main harvesting will probably begin in September a little later than normally. The total cultivation area of rapeseed in Finland increased by approximately 12,000 hectares from the previous year, which contributes to improving the harvest volume forecast.  The divestment of Apetit’s Grain Trade business to Berner was completed at the end of May, and it allows us to focus on growing and developing our processing businesses, meaning the Food Solutions and Oilseed Products businesses. Apetit will continue to cooperate intensively with Berner in purchasing oilseed plant raw material and in increasing the oilseed plant cultivation area and harvest level together with farmers. Apetit’s products promote sustainable eating in many ways. Baltic Sea Fish Patties, to be launched to professional kitchens in August, complement our local fish product selection. Like Baltic Sea Fish Fingers, the product is made of Finnish skinless Baltic herring fillet. The fishing of Baltic herring removes eutrophicating nutrients and algae from waterways. Sustainable food choices do matter!”

Avena Nordic Grain Oy is now Apetit Kasviöljy Oy

The sale of Apetit Group’s Grain Trade business to Berner Oy took place on May 31, 2022. Avena Nordic Grain was responsible for Apetit Group’s Grain Trade and Oilseed Products businesses. As part of the sale, the right to use the Avena name was also transferred to Berner. Avena Nordic Grain Oy new name is Apetit Kasviöljy Oy and its subsidiary Avena Kantvik Oy is now named Apetit Kantvik Oy. The companies form the Apetit Group's Oilseed Products business. The new names have been already registered in the trade register. Both companies’ business ID numbers, invoicing information and phone numbers will remain unchanged. The business has already introduced changes to the e-mail addresses of the personnel of the companies, which now have the format . We continue to purchase domestic oilseeds and develop cultivation together with our partners. We will also import certain amounts of rapeseeds in addition to domestic procurement. This way we can offer our customers decent quantity of high-quality oil products and feeds for their success.