Nearly 100 food and catering industry professionals gathered in Voimala, Oulu to celebrate Valentine’s Day and local food. At the event, the first ever winners of Arctic Food Lab Newcomer, and Local Food Advocate and Public Choice Awards were also announced. The Arctic Food Lab programme and label were created to raise the profile of northern cuisine and to bring together actors in gastronomy and food culture. The Arctic Food Lab is part of the Oulu 2026 European Capital of Culture programme.
“We hope that tourists and visitors in Oulu will discover our magnificent food culture by tasting the local produce and meeting the local actors,” said Piia Rantala-Korhonen, CEO of the Oulu Culture Foundation, Oulu 2026, in her opening speech at the event.
Local food advocates were awarded with local products and diplomas
You will come across the Arctic Food Lab label on supermarket shelves and local restaurants. More than 50 northern food and catering industry operators have joined the local food network and nearly 200 products so far have received this prestigious label.
“The label guarantees that the product has been made from local ingredients from northern Finland or by local professionals,” says Niina Keränen, Project Manager for the Arctic Food Lab programme.
The Arctic Food Lab was launched a year ago, when the Oulu Cultural Foundation’s European Capital of Culture project got under way. The first diplomas for local food operators were presented at the Valentine’s Day event.
Päivi Kaukua from Yrttiaitta Saarento, which specialises on local wild herbs and berries, was awarded the Local Food Advocate of the Year. Kaukua was praised for her wide expertise and genuine love of locally produced food and ingredients foraged from nearby forests and fields. The Arctic Food Lab Newcomer diploma was awarded to Mikko Kukkohovi representing Vanhatien ravintola restaurant.
“The hallmarks of Vanhatien ravintola are the bold, out-of-the-box thinking and innovative cuisine,” said Niina Keränen from Arctic Food Lab, when listing the merits of the winner.
The Public Choice Award went to Kujala Farm, owned and run by Susanna and Timo Kujala. According to the praise for the business, the company has won the hearts of its customers and made a strong contribution in making the Arctic Food Lab label known.
Using media to boost success
With the right product and a pinch of ambition, there is nothing that can stop local products and entrepreneurs from becoming a national success. One such success story is Mari Palin from Vähäsarja Oy, whose Jemma products were finalists in the Finnish Recipe for Success 2023 food product competition.
“The sale of Jemma products has increased exponentially with the publicity from the competition. Succeeding in the competition levered us up onto a new level and we are employing many more people.”
The importance of social media influencers has increased significantly and more companies from a wider range of sectors are now keen to collaborate with them. Noora Väänänen, one of the Oulu-based Foodbytwins influencers pointed out that social media has in fact become the main marketing channel for many businesses. Alongside the company’s own channels, they often rely on influencers. At its best, successful influencer collaboration can produce interesting and engaging content.
“What makes social media engaging is people. An influencer can be almost like a friend and the interaction between the audience and an influencer can be very close. Businesses would struggle to create such close relationship with their followers, and this is where influencers step in.”