In 1967, Hratch Maroutian packed his luggage with colourful spices, bulgur and olive oil at his home in Beirut. The journey to his new home country, Sweden, was about to begin. After settling down and learning the ways of his new community in the Nordics, Hratch established Sevan and started to import food products from Middle East to Sweden. The first delivery truck and warehouse were purchased in 1988.
In the past 20 years Sevan has grown its turnover, won new business clients, and also grown through company acquisitions. The company believes in food and its magic in bringing family and friends together around the same table. Food, just like experiences and happiness, are shared and cherished. In 2012 Sevan entered the Finnish market, with a mission to introduce Middle Eastern delicacies to Finnish homes and tastes. In this article Annika Kumpunen, Country Manager of Finland (Sevan), shares her views on what is happening.
New tastes conquer the Finnish taste buds
In the 60’s and 70´s, genuine Italian pizzas entered Finland. Pizza could be considered as a brilliant “vehicle or platform” that introduced a variety of new food products to the Finnish tastes. Olives, tuna, sundried tomatoes, shrimps, pineapple, and many other delicacies became common household names, thanks to pizza. The relative proximity of the Mediterranean helped this to materialize.
Today, Middle Eastern foods like Hummus, Halloumi, falafel, and Fattoush are commonly recognized. However, their role as rich and healthy form of a balanced diet is yet to be discovered by many of us. Hummus is a thick paste or spread, made from chickpeas, sesame seeds, olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Among many other products, Sevan has introduced a broad range of hummus to the Finnish market; from the original version to the baked beetroot hummus, garlic, green peas, basil and sun-dried tomato variants. Those of us who are looking for a challenge may try out Hummus Hot ‘n’ Spicy. And more is to come.
“Our portfolio is based on classic, Middle Eastern food products that represent high quality”, opens Kumpunen. “As we all also have our own tastes and preferences, we have created a product range that aims at offering new, refreshing tastes for all of us. We are thrilled to see that our products are highly appreciated, and our sales are rapidly growing. Finns are actively looking to explore new flavours, and the reception truly warms our heart”, Kumpunen outlines.
“In 2019, our sales grew over 30% in Finland compared to the previous year. According to the nationwide distribution and listings in retail, we are the hottest gainer in terms of sales / market share.” -Annika Kumpunen
Insights driven market expansion
In the beginning of 2020, Sevan started to collaborate with Crowst to learn about the Finnish perceptions and attitudes towards food. As Middle Eastern foods are relatively new in Finland, the underlying goal was to understand how and why people use dips and spreads today. Tastes, purchasing channels, brand recognition and drivers of consumption all played parts in the insights mix.
“We consider ourselves as pioneers in these food product categories in Finland”, Kumpunen states. “We are in a super interesting position, also when taking into account that there hasn’t been solid behavioural and attitudinal data before our collaboration with Crowst. By working with Crowst, we have been able to learn directly from consumers who buy, faster and in the most agile way we could have ever imagined”, Kumpunen characterizes.
The study targeting took general trends into account, including also pre-defined age segments, gender splits and desired skew. The study progress was followed in real-time on the online Crowst Dashboard.
“Crowst has shown us what modern technology coupled with meaningful, compelling insights look like.”
“It was interesting and inspiring to see the heatmap on Finland developing, based on the arriving study responses”, Kumpunen comments. “Crowst has shown us what modern technology coupled with meaningful, compelling insights look like. The study results have also helped us understand better where the consumers would expect to find certain products like hummus in shops. This is vital to us, as the discoverability of new product ranges may be difficult for many consumers”, Kumpunen affirms.
Sevan is on a strong growth path in Finland, and the coming years will show how the company will win the Finnish hearts both in the kitchen and around the food table.