Finland is living its golden era in alcohol production and exports. The extraordinary nature and the purest water enable the creation of fresh, innovative and delicious world-class liqueurs and spirits. Last year the judges of International Wine and Spirit Competition decided that the best gin tonic is made with Napue gin by Kyrö distillery. This year HelsinGin by Paradise City Beverage Company was awarded with three different prizes: ”Outstanding Silver” in Gin & Tonic category, silver in Contemporary Gin category and bronze in Gin Packaging category.
Gustav liqueurs by Lignell & Piispanen
Awarded HelsinGin and other goodies by L&P
Gustav liqueurs and other goodies by Lignell & Piispanen in Vinexpo Hong Kong 2016.
We Finns are also considered as a nation that just loooves their vodka. Maybe it’s the close relation to Slavic nations. 😉 But Finnish vodka is really good; even the international professionals admit that. Last year two very special vodkas, Koskenkorva and Laplandia vodka, achieved great success in Cannes. The iconic Koskenkorva Vodka was awarded 2 Vodka Masters Gold prizes and Laplandia Vodka was awarded the highest Master award in the Super Premium category.
Internationally awarded vodkas – Koskenkorva and Laplandia in Vinexpo Hong Kong 2016. Yummie!
And what about wines? In Finland the grapevines don’t even grow. Yet, we’ve been able to create something very extraordinary from our Nordic berries. Finnviini participated the International Eastern Wine Competition in California with great success. Their cloudberry wine was awarded silver and blueberry wine gold. In California?! Crazy, but true. This just proves how fantastic flavors our small country is able to produce. And do it with great passion!
August Berries introducing their unique wild berry wines and liqueurs in Vinexpo Hong Kong 2016.
I felt very proud, happy and privileged to have the opportunity to introduce three exquisite distilleries Altia, Laplandia vodka and Lignell & Piispanen as well as the world’s northernmost winery August Berries as part of national food export program Food from Finland activities to wider Asian audience in Vinexpo Hong Kong 2016. The booth stood out fantastically from the other exhibitors by being the only booth serving Nordic berry wines and offering tasteful cocktails made of the award-winning vodkas and gin.
Food from Finland and Vinexpo Hong Kong exhibitors introduced in CHINA Hotel & Catering Supplies Special. I’m so proud to pose with honored Publisher Mr. Charles Tang. 🙂 (First picture, right bottom. On the left Consul Sari Aho from the Consulate General of Finland)
Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China provide huge export potential to unique Finnish alcohol producers. Karhu (Bear) beer is already sold in China and Original Long Drink can be found in the grocery stores in Hong Kong. It won’t take long until Finland is globally known as the superior country for high-quality alcohol products.
CHEERS! The bar masters Sami Benamed and Erno Vainanen pooring drinks to Vinexpo visitors.
Vinexpo Hong Kong matchmaking event in the awarded FINDS Restaurant – the only Nordic restaurant in Hong Kong. On the right, the fantastic celebrity chef Jaakko Sorsa. From the left, bar master Erno, me Johanna, Food from Finland program director Esa, bar master Sami and chef Jaakko.
The Year of the Monkey is about to start soon. Monkey business is defined to be silly, stupid and time-wasting. However, the business during the Year of the Monkey shouldn’t have anything to do with Monkey business. It is said that you must outsmart the monkey for having good return on your investments. We need to be prepared also for quick changes and misfortune in our goals. But isn’t this just the current world we are dealing with? Business continues as usual and this year will bring many interesting opportunities.
Last December the fashion project I carried out for Finland – Hong Kong Trade Association together with #INLAND project in Hong Kong was awarded the best initiative award by HKTDC and Federation of Hong Kong Business Associations Worldwide. This year will be fashionable year as well. China and Hong Kong are calling for Finnish designers from fashion and lifestyle industries. If you are a designer or representative of design brand thinking of expanding your markets to China and/or Hong Kong, this is a great chance to learn more about those markets and find new buyers. Field trip to Korea is also in the plans.
Last year I also took 5 Finnish food companies to participate Asia’s biggest food exhibition, SIAL China in Shanghai. We had a national pavilion by Food from Finland program that gained very positive feedback with its Scandinavian pure and trendy design and of course, natural and tasty Finnish food products! Kiantama’s Biokia bilberry powder also gained success. It was nominated one of the 11 finalists in the SIAL innovation competition among 94 preselected products. This year we’ll make Food from Finland participation even bigger. We will participate with 100 m2 department introducing ca. 10 Finnish food brands. SIAL China will attract around 66,000 visitors this year and over 2,900 exhibitors from all around the world. This is THE event to meet with the local importers, distributors and retailers. If you are interested, please do be in touch!
Totally new opening will be the participation to Vinexpo Hong Kong in late May 2016. We will introduce Food from Finland pavilion with leading Finnish spirits manufacturers. Beautiful design and unique, fresh aromas from our Northern gem will be introduced to audience in Hong Kong. Vinexpo is the leader in wine and spirits exhibitions in Asia Pacific region with 18 years of experience. Vinexpo Hong Kong 2016 will welcome over 1,300 exhibitors from 34 countries. Nearly 20,000 importers as well as buyers from department stores, hotels, restaurants, wine shops, travel retailers are expected to visit Vinexpo this year. Bring your booze and gan bei with us in Hong Kong!
My other China businesses continue during the Monkey year as usual. We conduct partner search, relationship management, market research and quality inspections in China on daily basis. Last year the regional South Savonia project for China turned out to be a success. 4 companies from Mikkeli and Savonlinna found Chinese co-operation partners for import and export activities and had flourishing meetings with them. Companies are actively involved in China business now.
This new Chinese year might be The Year of the Monkey, but most certainly won’t be a year of the monkey business! We keep the wheels rolling and continue the active development of Finland – China collaboration.
One of my latest projects is soon, sadly, getting to its end. I’ve been assigned as China Specialist for regional development project for South Savonia. The aim of the project has been to identify opportunities and potential co-operation partners in China for local companies as well as establish collaborations.The project is managed by Mikkeli Region Business Development Centre Miset Ltd. (Miksei Ltd.) and especially by energetic and highly competent Ms. Anitta Sihvonen – the heart and soul of the project. The project was based on the friendship city agreement between South Savo and Shaoxing, which was signed early 2014. My own role was to coach the local companies regarding to the Chinese business culture and environment, identify suitable partners and check their backgrounds, set up meetings in China and support in negotiations.
The first patch of companies carried out a trip to China to meet with their potential partners and study the market. This time we had two companies, Mosaiikkimiljöö and Ykköspalkinto, with an interest of importing and a nuclear industry expert, Platom, with an interest of exporting. In addition, we paid a visit to Shaoxing to further strengthen the ties.
First, we visited a couple of showrooms and factories that were preliminary identified as suitable partners for Mosaiikkimiljöö. The visits took us to Guangzhou, next to Pearl River Delta. The biggest surprise for Mosaiikkimiljöö was how big and busy city Guangzhou is! The variety of mosaic suppliers in China is extensive. Therefore the background research had to be done carefully. Dealing directly with manufacturers provide certain advantages: 1. You can negotiate the prices directly with them. No middlemen involved. 2. They know immediately what they have in stock, what they are capable of producing and what the production time is. However, you’d better check if they have an export licence. If not, they need to use an agent.
After Guangzhou I met the representative of Platom in Beijing. Platom is operating in the field of nuclear energy and government level connections to them are critical in China. With the help of Finpro we managed to arrange very fruitful meetings with organizations such as China Nuclear Energy Association and China National Nuclear Corporation. This was a concrete evidence on how so called Team Finland network can support companies in entering new markets. Juha Putkonen from Platom was very grateful for Mikkeli’s China project. According to his words, China project has provided Platom efficient, concrete and very effective support to their export activities.
After Beijing we continued the tour to Shaoxing to meet with the local officers in order to strengthen the ties between South Savonia and Shaoxing. We enjoyed a lovely dinner with the Shaoxing officers accompanied by local delicacy, huang jiu, the yellow wine. Taste somehow reminds me of dry portwine or sherry. The next day Platom visited Haiyan Nuclear Power City facilitated by Shaoxing officers and we stopped by at Zhuji, the most famous pearl city, close to Shaoxing with Ykköspalkinto. However, the main destination for us was Ningbo where we had a couple of potential partners to meet. We visited 2 factories and one agent in Hangzhou that all supply trophies and awards. In general, I prefer to deal directly with manufacturers. However, agents do have more extensive selection of products as they represent several factories. In some cases they can buy very cheap and the prices are competitive. In general though, the prices are more expensive than buying directly from the factory. Buyer needs to decide which criteria counts the most.
Jari Matiskainen from Ykköspalkinto was thankful for having a person in the project who knows the Chinese business culture and can communicate in Chinese. He could finally make his long-term wish to come true and visit the potential partners in China. The obectives of the trip were met and negotiations will continue with the Chinese suppliers.
Overall, Mikkeli project is a good example on how regional co-operation may concretely support local companies in their internationalization aims. This type of regional program can also utilize the other Team Finland organizations for enabling government level meetings. The visit to China was an eye-opening experience to the companies. Like one said, “the friends don’t believe in Finland that Chinese drive better cars than we do and that they have so many luxus brand shops.” Yes, the world is out there, just need to go and explore it! 🙂
Last week I attended SIAL China 2015 food exhibition with 5 Finnish food manufacturers. SIAL China is definitely one of the most important Asian Food tradeshows with more than 2,700 exhibitors from over 80 countries and 55,000 international and national visitors.
This time we had a national Food from Finland pavilion presenting pure, delicious and health enhancing Finnish food products. Food from Finland is a national program dedicated to enhance export of Finnish food. The pavilion in SIAL China was hosted by 5 Finnish companies:
FINN CRISP – stands for a high awareness of what it means to live a fit and active life. A nutritious option for a snack, a healthy, slim option to bread and a versatile cooking ingredient.
Kaskein Marja – Healthy berry and mushroom products from pure Finnish nature. Kaskein Marja berry juices, berry powder and mushrooms are suitable both for HoReCa and food industry needs.
Vanajan Keksit – The secret behind tasty and crunchy wafers, biscuits and crisp rolls rusks is in the production;First – class raw materials, skilled and motivated staff and a high-quality production technology.
Kiantama – products are deeply rooted in wild Nordic forests. Kiantama produces and develops high-quality berry products from berries by Biokia-trademark and also raw material for food, health supplement and cosmetics industries.
Hunajainen SAM – Finnish family-owned Premium Honey Company. 25 years of experience in category extension through high product quality, innovative product development, consumer driven concepts and active brand support. Hunajainen SAM Oy is the retail and wholesale market leader in Finland.
During the 3 exhibition days the interest and attraction to our Finnish companies and their natural and fresh products was obvious. We had hundreds of visitors sharing their business cards and interest in our companies. Tastings drew a lot of attention and it was really funny to watch the reactions of local people to our products! 🙂 Numerous importers and distributors wanted to continue business negotiations with our companies and for sure, these Finnish companies will continue their exploration in the Chinese market.
SIAL China also held a SIAL Innovation competition in which Kiantama participated with their fantastic Biokia bilberry powder. Biokia bilberry powder was selected into the finals among from nearly 150 competing products for its healthiness and convenient use. SIAL Innovation committee described the Biokia bilberry powder with following words: “Berry powder rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Hand-picked berries from the forests of Finland. 100 g of powder equals 900 g of fresh berries. No preservative or additives. Perfect for use in baked goods, or to pour on ice cream, yogurt and porridge.” Congratulations to Kiantama and a lot of success in future endeavors!
This year it seemed that much recognition was granted to natural and healthy products though still the Chinese taste requires sweeteners – or at least adaptation to local taste.
The signal from the Chinese market is very positive. Next year we will attend the SIAL China with more companies and bigger pavilion. Stay tuned and join the journey of Food from Finland. 🙂
I brought 10 up-and-coming Finnish fashion designers to participate Hong Kong Fashion Week in January 2015. This, by far, one of the biggest Finnish fashion introductions in Asia was facilitated by the Finland – Hong Kong Trade Association, of which vice chair-person I am.
As I am not a fashion guru, nor am I deeply familiar with the fashion scene, I needed a co-operation partner with a vision how to build an entrance to international fashion fair with 10 designers. Founder team of #INLAND seemed like a natural choice for co-operation since they had just recently presented a pop-up store of 8 Finnish brands in Berlin. Designer Kaisa Riivari accepted the challenge and so we started our journey with Hong Kong as our destination.
There was whole bunch of work to do! Kaisa took the charge in coordinating the designers and I was responsible for arrangements with the fair organizer HKTDC, wheedling sponsors to support our 100 % volunteer-based project and arranging side events, which included opening ceremony, fashion show, media breakfast seminar and fashion cocktail party. You may learn more about our project in the video “Finnish Fashion Designers Made a Successful Debut in Hong Kong” by HKTDC. The video can be seen here:
We were lucky to have full support from Consulate General of Finland in Hong Kong and Finnish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (Finncham) in order to make our events successful in Hong Kong. Annie Wang, a super girl and a previous pr intern in Finncham, showed a great initiative in writing and article about our project and sending press releases and invitations to our events to potential buyers. Annie’s article can be read by clicking the link “#INLAND Fashion Project in Finnish Fashion”. Also an active, initiative (the characters I really admire in people) and pretty HK exchange student, Janni, contacted with me and wanted to volunteer in our project. She was a great help in practical things during the fashion fair. Janni also shared some feelings and photos from the fashion fair in her blog writing #INLAND.
We were also happy to have singer Saara Aalto accompanying the group to bring in extra Finnish flavor to the #INLAND Hong Kong Fashion Project. She has gained fame in Finland for her success in Finland’s Got Talent (2007), Eurovision Song Contest (2011, Finnish national selections) and The Voice of Finland (2012). Currently, Saara Aalto is gaining positive recognition in China as well, being one of the most famous Finnish artists in the country along with HIM and Nightwish. Audience in Hong Kong was totally fascinated by Saara’s talent and her skills in singing Chinese were not left unnoticed!
The brands in our #INLAND deparment included the following talents:
LUMI – The acclaimed Finnish brand, Lumi, designs clean, pure, timeless handbags, shoes and leather accessories for both women and men.
Costo – Costo accessories combine three aspects: quality, ecology and style, which tangle into the unique philosophy of sustainable design uphold by the people behind the brand.
Katri Niskanen – Women’s wear. ELLE Awards Winner 2014 – The Designer of the Year. Finland’s first Project Runway winner.
FINSK – FINSK’s unique and modern shoe designs are avant-garde yet supremely wearable. Contrasting leathers and sculptural wooden heels are cleverly used to create truly unique design masterpieces.
LIISA RISKI – Liisa Riski aims to create simple, feminine and long lasting women’s wear that is shaped by positivity, joy of life and love. The Liisa Riski handwriting is clean, feminine yet colourful and vivacious.
Saint Vacant – Saint Vacant was born out of passion for bespoke shoemaking. That is why the devil is in the detail. From the uniquely designed last and high quality materials to the “one little detail” that completes the design – the shoes and accessories are a perfect fit for the individualist.
Nomen Nescio – Men’s wear, which is about simple functionality and contemporary yet timeless pieces. The ambition is to work as sustainable as possible.
Viona Blu – Viona Blu is a Finnish based handbag and accessory brand. Main raw material being used is fish skin. The brand’s philosophy is to honor traditional sewing atelier culture with its concentration on details and excellent quality, and bring it to the contemporary time.
Dusty Marjut Uotila – Dusty Marjut Uotila is an avant-garde menswear label known for its presentation of artistic signature pieces without compromising wearability.
RIIVARI – RIIVARI is a brand that creates wearable clothing and accessories with a modern twist. RIIVARI´s design is trendy and fresh, the style is always fun.
Listen to the views of our designers and get introduced to their work by watching the following video by HKTDC:
Finnish fashion gained a lot of positive interest and feedback. Many purchase contracts were also done between the local buyers and our designers. It seems that those brands that show uniqueness in their design or can provide an interesting story behing their designs gain the most attention. It could be the unique material. like fish skin in Viona Blu accessories or ecological, yet fun choices in Costo hats or introducing artistic avant-garde pieces of menswear such like Dusty Marjut Uotila.
We also organized a fashion show during the fair. Even the creative adviser of H&M, Margareta van den Bosch, enjoyed the Finnish fashion with great enthusiasm. 🙂
The Finnish Fashion Coctail Party was aimed at the local blog writers, press and buyers. Saara was singing and Koskenkorva Vodka flowing. The atmosphere was great and the locals got to experience the Finnish way of partying. 😉
Hundreds of non-paid hours were spent on this effortful fashion project. However, this has been one of my most rewarding, interesting and inspiring projects of my whole lifetime! I got to know such fantastic talents, work with many professionals and most of all, introduce style, knowhow and vision from my home country Finland!
I am so proud to present my latest project. I get to take 10 talented up-and-coming Finnish fashion designers to showcase unique vision of design in Hong Kong Fashion Week. #INLAND’s showcase includes, among other events, the department in Hong Kong Fashion Week at Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre, Fashion Parade, and special performances by the singer Saara Aalto who sings perfectly also in Chinese! Finding sponsors and trendy venues for the side activities nearly caused me a heart attack, but for my relief all’s well that ends well. 🙂
Come to enjoy teh Finnish fashion and say hello!
Schedule and locations:
Organized by Finland-Hong Kong Trade Association #INLAND Finnish Fashion Designer’s department welcomes visitors to enjoy unique fashion from the country of Northern Lights in Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hall 3F, booths C177-C185 and C214 & C213. Singer Saara Aalto accompanies the group to bring in extra Finnish flavor to the #INLAND Hong Kong Fashion Project.
Media Breakfast Meeting takes a place on Tuesday 20th January 9 am – 11 am in Room N106-108, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Hosted by Ms Shirley Chan, Chairman of HKTDC Garment Advisory Committee the latest trends and developments of the garment and textile industry are discussed. Ms Johanna Heikkinen (Finland-Hong Kong Trade Association), Ms Kaisa Riivari (RIIVARI) and Mr Janne Lax (Saint Vacant) from #INLAND Fashion Project are sharing their insights of the latest developments.
Fashion Parade on Wednesday 21st January 12.45 pm – 1 pm introduces the power of teamwork in trendy and fashionable way when #INLAND designers conquer the stage with their special designs. Fashion Parade is held in the World Boutique Fairground in Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Everyone wants a piece of China – so do the educational institutes. What are the chances of Finnish schools to succeed in attracting Chinese students when there are world’s top universities from USA, UK and other countries competing in the same market that even provide preschool education in order to promote their excellence?
Finland is still relatively unknown destination among Chinese people. Students that end up studying to Finland have, in many cases, first heard about Finland from their relatives or friends. They seem to respect the cost-free education, fresh air and clean and peaceful studying environment as well as high-technology knowhow. Those that have loads of money target at international top universities to gain the best education and reputation money can buy. Those that are not wealthy tend to target at those destinations where they can improve their competitiveness through differentiation in order to survive the competition in the work life and secure their future.
I have recognized three types of Chinese students:
Highly talented and smart kids. Those are the ones that each university wants. The sky is the limit for these students and they do not need to worry about their background nor financial support – scholarships are destined to them.
The rich kids. Money can buy everything – also good education. The wealthiest kids have even a separate budget for shopping in global brand stores. The future is handed on a silver platter.
Average kids. These kids are not geniuses nor they come from utterly rich families – in other words, they are not in preferential position. These kids look for opportunities in countries such as Finland.
The future is unknown
During the last decade the amount of Chinese students studying abroad has tripled (Waldmeir 2013). Over the half of them do not return back to their homeland. Those that have excelled in their studies can easily find jobs both abroad and in China, especially in the fields of science and technology. It is notable that 35 % of technology chiefs and laboratory directors in Silicon Valley are Chinese.
The future seems more blurry to those that return back to China. They need to start the job hunting at the same level as the locally studied job hunters. There are millions of newly-graduated students competing in the same job market. The foreign universities are also fairly unknown to employers. Though the criticism towards friendship city projects in Finland is tough, they raise the awareness and recognition of Finland and Finnish education via culture, student and teacher exchange.
Chinese are interested in recognized knowhow. Unfortunately, Finland doesn’t have any universities in the list of world’s TOP 100 universities. China has two; Tsinghua University and Beijing University. Finnish Aalto University is currently co-operating with Tsinghua by utilizing the Chinese MBA students for increasing the China business knowledge of Finnish companies. In addition, Aalto University has set up in co-operation with Tongji University a Sino-Finnish Centre in Shanghai that provides a platform for exchange between students, teachers, researchers and industry.
Interdisciplinary education and research as well as practical and project management knowhow are the strengths of Finland in education export. Chinese want to learn from the best and take the best practices in their homeland. When targeting Chinese education market it is critical to focus on those areas where the education institutes have concrete references and publicly recognized knowhow.
China supports the fields of education that are in line with the China’s 5-year plan. For example the Chinese industry and business require modernization and improvement of knowhow. China is investing heavily in domestic innovation and industry but the knowhow of the people isn’t sufficient for reaching the development objectives. Finland has solid professional knowhow in many fields of industries e.g. forestry, machinery, grocery industry as well as environment and ICT technologies. Therefore Chinese companies and multinational companies operating in China could be an interesting clientele to Finnish upper secondary and tertiary schools.
Creativity is an asset
Chinese admire creative people. We should also foster creativeness. We should identify the fields of expertise and projects where our knowhow is easily acknowledged and is internationally competitive. The offering must be very concrete and benefits clearly articulated – to both decision makers and the end-users (students). In communication we should forget the Finnish modesty and without any hesitation be proud of our knowhow and excellence! Behind all studying is the motivation to improve oneself and succeed in competitive job market. Chinese students are looking for those education opportunities that they believe to support their future objectives. The most important objective is employment.
This blog writing is a shortened version of my article “Koulutusviennin kohdemaaksi Kiina” (in Finnish – free translation “China as a destination of education export”). It is published in the article collection edited by Karelia University of Applied Sciences. The original article and the whole collection can be read in: https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/80057/B23.pdf?sequence=1