Kouvola Liquorice is poised to conquer the luxury liquorice market
By Philip Denvir | Photos: Kouvola Liquorice
Finland’s long love affair with liquorice looks set to be shared with the rest of the world, thanks to the Kouvola Liquorice company.
The craft candy company has plans to target the global luxury food market with its handmade sweet treats. Company owner, Timo Nisula explains: “There is a lack of premium liquorice worldwide. We are a small player, but we want to be the best. We have been doing some export but now we have decided to be number one in the world. Whenever someone buys a Bugatti, we want our liquorice in every front seat.” Nisula plans to get his product into high-end retail outlets around the world and is about to launch a new range of designer packaging.
A traditional product
Founded in 1906 in the city of Vyborg, the company moved to the city of Kouvola in south-eastern Finland after WWII and was granted a government licence in 1945 to produce liquorice and other candies in Finland. In 2008, Timo Nisula bought the company with a view to creating an internationally-acclaimed designer product.
Kouvolan Liquorice is more of a cottage industry than a factory. There are no production lines or heavy machinery. Instead, every morsel is made by hand, using traditional methods. “We differentiate our product by it being 100 per cent handmade. It is cooked low and slow for several hours before being prepared, packed and sent. We don’t warehouse our product, it is shipped immediately. Kouvolan Liquorice is smooth and never bitter, unlike many other liquorice products. You can’t make a first-class product in a hurry. And, of course there is our secret ingredient – love!” says Nisula, self-proclaimed ‘el presidente’ of the Republic of Liquorice.
Kouvola Liquorice was recently chosen as the best liquorice-maker in a survey by a leading lifestyle magazine, due to its liquorice being handmade in a traditional manner and being of consistently high quality. Liquorice is almost universally popular in Finland, and consumer research by UCLA found that the homegrown treat came out on top in the US market.
“In Finland, we don’t have much gourmet food. Most candies are about instant gratification, not savouring the sweets. There is currently no category for premium liquorice candy. It is a niche market but I believe Finland should strive to be number one in many premium gourmet markets,” says Nisula
“Our aim is to become the number one most valuable brand that people are willing to pay extra for. We want our liquorice to be savoured and enjoyed as a connoisseur item. So, we are working on new designer packaging in order to transform Kouvolan Liquorice into a luxury brand for export.”
Pioneers across the board
Kouvola Liquorice has been a pioneer in many ways: they were the first to send liquorice into space, and made a splash with their liquorice beer. In 2016, the company collaborated with acclaimed Finnish designer Eero Aarnio – famous for the iconic 1960s Ball Chair. Together, artist and artisan created the world’s first designer sweet and Ghost liquorice was born.
The company’s green credentials are also impeccable. Kouvola Liquorice prides itself on being as environmentally sustainable as possible. Instead of offsetting their carbon footprint by planting trees halfway across the world, Kouvola Liquorice is investing in regenerating Finland’s forests.
This will be a big year for Kouvola Liquorice. With sales up 28 per cent year-on-year, the company is about to open a second operation in its hometown. This will increase production capacity to meet demand for international exports and target the premium market. The firm anticipates a 33 per cent increase in turnover in 2023. The expansion will also increase the workforce from 33 employees to up to 50.
“The global liquorice market is underdeveloped and there is significant potential for growth of about ten times the current market size. We just have to get more people around the world loving liquorice. Internationally, that could be a one billion US dollar business,” explains Nisula. “Our target is to get into more exclusive stores for people who desire a high quality treat with a story. We want to spread the decadent joys of top-quality liquorice.”
Liquorice has long been prized for its medicinal properties. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Napoleon all recognised the benefits of liquorice and used it to help with nerves and to improve energy levels. It is still used for its anti-inflammatory benefits in Asian medicine and beauty products, and as a health food in North America. It was in 1776 that an Englishman created the tasty treat as we now know it.
“If liquorice was good enough for Caesar and the Pharaohs, it is good enough for us,” quips Nisula. “Of course, we don’t claim that liquorice candy is good for one’s health, but it does make you happy, and that is good for you!”
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