In this article series we highlight the people that bring our From Farm to Fork strategy to life. Meet nutrition expert Soile Käkönen.
HKScan’s nutrition expert Soile Käkönen considers meat – rich in nutrients – to be an important part of a balanced diet. For her, the increased interest in food and eating is positive.
Soile Käkönen sees her own role at HKScan as multifunctional, liaising between product development and experts in responsible production, for instance, or between the communication and marketing teams. She also feels that acting as an advocate for eating meat as part of a healthy diet in the public domain is a key part of her job.
“I think it’s important for food companies to have their own expertise in health and well-being, especially since health is one of the strongest consumer trends right now”, says Käkönen, who joined HKScan more than a decade ago after working in the field of sports nutrition and health care.
According to Käkönen, the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations provide good guidelines: they do not mandate the “right” way to eat; rather, they allow people to take a variety of approaches to a healthy diet.
“In addition to the limits imposed by the recommendations for things like fat and salt, consumers attach images such as ‘natural’ and ‘pure’ to the idea of ‘healthy’ – and there are no clear-cut criteria for those,” she explains.
Food choices reflect values
Käkönen thinks that HKScan’s position as a major player in the industry brings with it the responsibility and obligation to offer healthy choices to consumers. The large volumes the company produces mean that even small changes in the composition of the food become significant.
“My aim is to ensure that all of our product categories have healthy options. Not everything needs to be super-healthy, though – there’s room for some indulgence as well.”
Käkönen says that people’s increased interest in the food they eat and the perception that this food reflects their own values and choices is a positive thing.
“I think it’s always good when people take more of an interest in food and what they are eating. It’s also interesting that people these days are increasingly looking for products that address them as an individual and fit their values. The emphasis on the individual also provides a new avenue for communication about the products.”
Contact throughout the entire chain
According to Käkönen, meat has unfairly taken the blame in recent public debate, as it is so nutritious that even a small amount is enough to make a meal balanced. People can do fine without meat as well, but in such cases, creating a healthy diet requires resourcefulness and knowledge. In any case, well-being comes from your entire lifestyle, and food is only one aspect of that.
“The discussion around food often focuses on issues that consumers worry about, like the carbon footprint or additives in food. I always try point out the pleasure and joy of eating as well. After all, that’s one of the most important aspects of food”, she says.
Communicating the joy of food is part of HKScan’s aim to provide customers and consumers with responsible, high-quality products for a tastier everyday life and shared moments, in line with the company’s “From Farm to Fork” strategy. Käkönen sees her own role as having strong links to the entire chain, starting from primary production.
“I’ve taken part in research collaboration and projects in primary production. In the Omega-3 Pork project (Rypsiporsas®-projekti), for example, I was involved in developing the rapeseed feed for the animals to make the meat even more nutritious. On the other hand, product development has given me the chance to think about consumer preferences and how we can meet them.”
Käkönen finds the varied nature of her work and the possibility to cooperate with different parties particularly rewarding. She can also see the results of her work in a very concrete way on the shelves of grocery stores.
“I feel that people listen to me, and that I can influence how responsible our company’s operations are.”