Kouvola Liquorice: Move over chocolate, it’s time for luxury liquorice
By Ester Laiho
Kouvola Liquorice has been making liquorice for almost 80 years, predominantly for its Finnish customers, but owner Timo Nisula wants to make their confectionery the next global luxury product.
The story of Kouvola Liquorice begins in 1906 when the company, then under a different name, made sodas in Vyborg. The company moved to Uusikaupunki and, in the aftermath of the war during a period of rationing, was granted the ingredients to make liquorice. Finns loved the product and the company expanded its production of sweets to Kouvola, where it has been ever since.
Kouvola Liquorice currently exports its fresh liquorice to Scandinavia, some countries in mainland Europe and even Canada, and Nisula is looking to expand. Though he isn’t expecting Walmart to stock their black sweets, he wants their carefully crafted and beautifully packaged products on the shelves of luxury and gourmet boutiques around the world.
Luxury liquorice made by hand with a 60-year-old recipe
With years of experience under his belt of importing food, including caviar and chocolate, Nisula knows there’s a demand for fine-quality products. So why couldn’t it be liquorice? Nisula has been at the helm of Kouvola Liquorice since 2008, but the liquorice has been made the same way since 1960, when an English liquorice expert and consultant H. Knoch tweaked the recipe. Now, as then, the black confectionery is made by hand and distributed to customers when it’s still fresh.
This treat is very different to salty liquorice. Though it is equally black, it tastes very different. “They are two completely different products: salty liquorice is made of ammonium chloride in a lab, but our liquorice is made from liquorice root and leavened in our factory. Not everyone likes salty liquorice, I’m sure not everyone will like liquorice either, but even if half of the world’s population don’t like it, there are still 3.5 billion potential customers out there for us to reach,” says Nisula.
Time for a liquorice revolution
Liquorice has been used and enjoyed in human history for centuries but despite having been enjoyed by many leaders like Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and even Tutankhamun, Pharaoh of Egypt, it has never had a revolution of its own. Thanks to its medicinal properties, it is still used in Western and Eastern medicine. Its antimicrobial properties also make it a coveted ingredient in the cosmetics industry and it is also used to flavour tobacco. These are the top three uses for liquorice in the world, with the food industry coming in fourth.
The self-proclaimed first ‘Master of Liquorice’, Nisula wants that to change: “liquorice is a fascinating ingredient and we should celebrate it for its unique flavour, the way we taste wine and food and pair them. I travelled to Italy to visit the people who grow the liquorice we use, and they pride themselves on their product just the way wine producers do. The flavour of liquorice actually lends itself to being paired with a glass of wine.”
Spreading the gospel of Kouvola Liquorice around the globe might sound ambitious – or even a little unrealistic – but the company has grown in size and gained notoriety since Nisula took over. Today, they produce five times more liquorice and, with an expansion on the way, he even wants to double that.
Despite production volume increasing significantly, Nisula isn’t planning on cornering the global liquorice market with volume: “the story of Kouvola Liquorice is a fascinating one and we’ve never budged on quality or our methods. We’ve got the know-how to keep producing high-quality liquorice which is why we are excited to focus on exporting our liquorice. Simply put, we’re not looking to be the biggest, we just want to be the best.”
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