Wild herb celebration is a summery happening in a cozy park presenting natural products, taste, and experience. June is the time for wild herbs to be at its best.
Here you will find natural food products and cosmetics to buy as a souvenir from local producers. You are also welcomed to experience healing natural experiences – such as wild herb walk and enjoy live music and interesting talks about natural products.
Oulu is the European capital of culture in year 2026 and Arctic Food Lab is program that brings forth the ingredients that have grown under the Northern light, and the uniqueness of traditional food born under arctic circumstances. We want to offer locals and international guests Arctic Food Lab experiences that cannot be experienced anywhere else.
We are preparing for the Oulu2026 year to come by offering Arctic Tasting! as part of Wild herb celebration. Come and taste local products and give feedback and you can win a package full of Arctic Food Lab delicacies.
Wild herb celebration is arranged by the Society of nature-based companies in Northern Ostrobothnia in co-operation with local operators.
Arctic Tasting! is part of Boost! – The European capital of culture enhances the internationalization of SMEs-project, which is funded by European Regional Development fund and Council of Oulu Region.
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.
Picture Iina Tauriainen
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.”
The Arctic Food Lab community keeps growing and has most recently been joined by the farm Linnunradan tila (Milky way’s farm) from Tyrnävä. The farm specialises in growing hemp and raising alpacas. Among its Arctic Food Lab products are food products homemade in Kempele and bakery goods made using hemp and sold at the farm café, which is open during the high season. Entrepreneur Sanna Siira says she developed the idea by herself.
The farm shop Sateen Tupa is open as agreed, during events and the seasonal cafés, the Summer Café and the Winter Café, are open during high season. The Christmas café in Sateen Tupa shop is open on Sundays 27 Nov and 11 Dec 12pm–2pm and during the Christmas week on Wednesday 21 Dec and Thursday 22 Dec 12pm–2pm.
Siira says the idea behind her farm Linnunradan tila came from her own interests. Hemp cultivation is ecological and offers an efficient way of binding carbon. All parts of the plant can be utilised by various industries.
“Both hemp as a plant and alpaca as an animal are very ecological species to grow and produce and support the principles of sustainable development.”
Besides producing wool and serving as a therapeutic animal, alpaca can also be used in natural and effective landscape management. Through animal-assisted activities, alpacas bring joy and new experiences to people. Siira says both hemp and alpacas support human health and wellbeing in a most natural way.
“My love of nature and animals is at the core of my business. When you are passionate about something, your story will be authentic and interesting. There is very little training available specifically on these two species, only on the more general level of farming, product development, service design and animal care. Being an entrepreneur has as such taught me a lot.”
Siira has originally trained as a designer and she also holds a master’s degree in the arts from the University of Lapland and a rural entrepreneur qualification. She says her journey has sometimes been one of a fighting windmill but she has never lost her passion.
“The prejudices against hemp products only show how important it is to share facts and information. I feel I’ve been a pioneer in this field in Finland. Alpaca is also a relative new animal in Finland and as an alpaca farmer it is my task and responsibility to support others to understand the natural behaviours of the alpaca.”
From field to table
Siira’s products awarded the Arctic Food Lab label include cold pressed hempseed oil, whole hemp seeds, hemp meal and Sira’s hemp and apple granola. The seasonal cafés serve bakery goods made with hemp, such as hemp rolls, hemp seed crispbread and garlic hemp oil for a garnish. The growing season for hemp is long and it makes efficient use of the light northern nights. Linnunradan tila is a family farm with an artisanal approach to production: oils are pressed to demand to ensure that it is always fresh and of the highest possible quality.
“It is the quality and taste that make our products so unique. We have received positive feedback for the mild and soft nutty flavour of our hemp oil. The hemp variety (Finola) has been developed here in the north, under the arctic sun, which gives the products a unique taste.”
The company cultivates the hemp in Tyrnävä and all products are handmade in Kempele. Siira says the company is in charge of all aspects of production including the product development, visual identity, marketing, advertising and sales as well as deliveries.
“We control the entire chain from field to table. We work with a select group of local collaboration partners, who use our hemp food products in preparing their products. In our café products, for example, we use locally produced or at least Finnish ingredients whenever possible.”
Our products are deeply local in character. The raw materials are produced and processed locally. The company also aims to source all packaging, labels and other additional materials locally. They also invested a few years ago in a new building to house the café and farm shop as well as the food production facilities.
“The building is made of Finnish timber and built by local builders. We prioritise local and Finnish producers and partners in everything we do.”
Even though the use of domestic raw materials or services can increase production costs for certain products, Siira is committed to delivering the highest possible quality and supporting local enterprises.
“Locally produces food is clean and authentic. In other words, you know where something was made and produced and by whom. The chain is transparent, and one should also not forget the importance of ensuring that Finland remains self-sufficient.”
For Siira, the purpose of using and displaying the Arctic Food Label on products is to immediately tell the customers that the products are authentic and locally made. The label promotes local and Finnish work and production. Siira hopes that the label is a strong enough signal to steer the choice of the customer towards the labelled products.
“I also want the label to communicate that the product and service has been created here, in our unique Arctic environment. It also speaks to our respect of nature, that our production is carefully thought out and the entire production chain of our products is sustainable.”
Siira hopes to see the local food culture develop so that local ingredients would become an even more prominent part of the offering in companies and public organisations such as the meals served in schools, nurseries and workplaces.
“I want to see us favour Finnish work even more and to forage and utilise natural herbs to a greater extent.”
In addition to the farm shop, the products of Linnunradan tila are also available through the Reko network of local food companies and Pohjolan Lähiruoka online shop as well as various local retailers from Raahe to Kello.
The Arctic Food Lab offers northern Finnish flavours and experiences. It is a brand dedicated to the food of northern Finland showcasing products and ingredients grown and produced in the region. The Arctic Food Lab programme shows the richness of northern Finnish cuisine and the vast potential of the pure, Arctic ingredients through local high-quality, uncompromising expertise. Look for the Arctic Food Lab label on packaging and products in restaurants and shops. The Arctic Food Lab label helps visitors from near and far recognise and learn about locally produced food and the local food culture. The Arctic Food Lab is part of the Oulu 2026 European Capital of Culture programme. Want to know more? Contact Niina Keränen
Arctic Food Lab is a trademark of Oulu2026 – European Capital of Culture that aims to promote northern gastronomy focussed on local food. Erika Benke has met two food industry professionals in Oulu to hear their thoughts on how Arctic Food Lab intends to take the concept of wild and locally-grown food based cuisine to the next level.
“We have totally unique ingredients here in Oulu. I hope that in five years’ time, we will be the proudest Finns of our local ingredients.”
Chef Jussi Kurkela starts our conversation with a bold statement, fit for someone whose fine-dining venue Ostroferia has made real waves in Oulu’s restaurant scene. He’s a soft-spoken man, clearly articulating his mission.
“I make food from local ingredients. I carry the feeling that I get when picking up a mushroom straight to the table. I want the customer to feel the same emotion when eating that mushroom. That’s the only way to make food.”
Sinikka Eskola has been running Sokeri-Jussin Kievari, Oulu’s much-loved traditional Finnish restaurant in Pikisaari, for over twenty years. A cheerful, seemingly inexhaustible woman, Sinikka is bursting with passion when talking about local ingredients.
“Strawberries, mushrooms, fish, new potatoes, reindeer meat… oh my God! It’s the best in the world.
Isn’t is amazing that we live so far north, just below the Arctic Circle, but still this is the best place in the world for wild berries and growing these vegetables?”
Changing attitudes to local food
Most people agree that local food in Oulu is full of flavour. But many locals view it as nothing special – just part of ordinary life in the north. Arctic Food Lab aims to change that notion by stirring emotions and making people realise that their local food is unique – and it’s something to boast about.
“It’s not just that it’s healthy and delicious. Local food is good for the environment. And not having to transport it from long distances also means that everything is fresh,” adds Sinikka to the long list of benefits.
A competitive advantage
Arctic Food Lab promotes the idea that local food can be a competitive advantage to players in the food industry.
Farmers, restaurants and supermarkets can all benefit from prioritising local food in their offerings, thereby increasing awareness about forest and locally-grown and raised food among tourists and locals alike.
“This is so good for everybody. We need to get this loud and clear,” says Jussi Kurkela.
“We need to make sure that there’s local food on everybody’s table: at home and in restaurants. Supermarkets should set up an aisle or a corner dedicated to local food,” suggests Sinikka Eskola.
Get addicted to foraging
Arctic Food Lab wants both tourists and locals to learn more about Oulu’s gastronomic heritage.
“To make that happen, how about organising tours in the forest?” asks Jussi Kurkela.
“We have to get everybody to start picking berries and mushrooms. Many people are afraid of picking mushrooms because some are poisonous, and they don’t bother to learn which ones are edible. We should teach them about mushrooms.”
Jussi is a keen mushroom picker but he points out that at the time of our interview, we’re in the middle of the cloudberry season. To prove the point, in half an hour he effortlessly fills a small box with the juicy orange fruit.
“It’s so easy to learn to appreciate local food. All you have to do is pick enough cloudberries to make a cake for your family. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be hooked. Next year when the cloudberry season starts, you’ll feel an irresistible urge to go and pick them and make that cloudberry cake again.”
If you’ve been inspired to follow Jussi’s advice, please get in touch with us and tell us about your experience. We’d love to hear from you: has a box of berries you’ve collected made you addicted to foraging?
The travel and event management specialist Go Arctic is the latest business to join the Arctic Food Lab network. Established in 2008, the enterprise is owned by Sipe Åqvist together with Kirsi Eskola. Åqvist says that sourcing locally has always been at the heart of the company’s ethos.
“Depending on the season, we employ 7–27 people and a host of freelancers in event management and travel services,” says Åqvist.
Pancake and artisan bread the Arctic way
The company offers a wide range of event management and travel services and, in addition, it also runs a chain of cafés with branches in locations where they will best serve local and global visitors. The cafés Vanha Hamina in Ii, Tunnelmatupa in Koiteli and hotel restaurant Liminganlahti have been carefully designed to create an inviting haven to spend time in and relax. The café products showcase local cuisine and produce.
“The pancake has been our flagship product since we opened our first café. It is a delicious, traditional sweet loved by both adults and children. The traditional archipelago bread is made at our kitchen to a recipe brought to us by chef and co-operation partner Mikko Törrö, and most customers agree the bread is simply divine.
Åqvist says that their own-recipe pancake is always made from locally produced flour and, for example, the Liminganlahti branch uses locally produced organic eggs. All products are made from the best ingredients available. The sandwich filling made with the archipelago bread is made of salmon and egg, and both the bread and the sandwich are highly popular.
In the Arctic Food Lab products, special attention is paid to the ingredients. In fact, one of company’s conference packages is built around Arctic Food Lab products with all catering throughout the day based on Arctic Food Lab products. Åqvist does not find focusing on local food too much of a challenge. Certainly, sourcing locally takes more time and effort, but is well worth the trouble.
“The new conference package has been enthusiastically received by our customers. It is important for us to be able to order certain products directly from the producers. This is something we are working hard on to improve even further.
The local approach is part of all Go Arctic operations
It is a central value for the company and, according to Åqvist, their aim is to use locally sourced products and to partner with local partners as much as possible. Go Arctic also serves as an agent for Oulu region travel guides and tours, so the local history is indeed at the centre of the company’s operations. One of our most popular event management products launched by Go Arctic is its local version of the amazing race concept.
“The event is based on the Oulu dialect and local curiosities and phenomena, such as the Bobby at the Market Place statue, air guitar playing and local chocolate. Covering the areas Myllytulli, city centre and Ainolanpuisto, the race has proved a hit product for corporate away days. We are producing a new edition of the race for next autumn, which will include Pikisaari and even Hietasaari.
In the kitchen, creating the menu is team work, involving a large number of people in addition to the kitchen personnel.
“The same goes for our event organisation,” says Åqvist. “We are happy to listen to the ideas of the entire team in our planning.”
Go Arctic’s offers event organisation, away-day and conference services to b2b customers. The company’s other key business areas are the café-restaurants, guided tours and entertainment agency as well as travel services for international tour organisers.
“Conference services form a large part of our service portfolio. Our company has two divisions: Go Arctic Events and Go Arctic Travels. Our service offering is quite extensive but all of the elements support each other. Our personnel are extremely qualified – it is a pure joy to work with such professionals.
AFL was the answer
Åqvist says that communicating about the sustainability of their products was a challenge. Therefore, Arctic Food Lab could not have appeared at a more opportune time. The Go Arctic team hope the brand succeeds and that the network is joined by as many members as possible.
“AFL is a brand that immediately tells the customer that your services and products are local, fair and sustainable, and right there at the café where the customer makes their choices.”
The Arctic Food Lab offers northern Finnish flavours and experiences. It is a brand dedicated to the food of northern Finland showcasing products and ingredients grown and produced in the region. The Arctic Food Lab programme shows the richness of northern Finnish cuisine and the vast potential of the pure, Arctic ingredients through local high-quality, uncompromising expertise. Look for the Arctic Food Lab label on packaging and products in restaurants and shops. The Arctic Food Lab label helps visitors from near and far recognise and learn about locally produced food and the local food culture. The Arctic Food Lab is part of the Oulu 2026 European Capital of Culture programme.