Kesko-CEO: More foreign discount chains would hurt Finnish food industry

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The newly appointed CEO of retail chain giant Kesko, Mikko Helander, says Finnish food industry and agriculture would be in for difficult times if more foreign discount supermarket chains start appearing on the Finnish market with own-branded products.
“The agricultural sector would be lost if we did not have, for example, Valio, Fazer, Raisio, and meat companies,” Helander warns.

Helander is becoming familiar with the retail industry after few months in his new position. But he is annoyed over the decision-makers, who do not want to hold a proper debate on food production, quality and price. In Aamulehti, he points out that if we promote international discount chains to Finland, the Finnish food industry won’t do well, and then the bottom plug falls out of the countryside’s business.

His message is that strong domestic grocery stores make sure that Finland will remain as a strong player in the food industry and agriculture as foreign low-cost chains do not like to sale a large domestic assortment.
”Do we want our own decisions to ensure that we have a strong grocery future?” Mikko Helander wonders.

Helander says the food debate climate in Finland is running on wrong basis. There are only complaints that food is expensive in Finland, and it is due to the fact that the competition does not work in the Finnish grocery trade with only two major players. Helander stresses that it would be important to have an open public debate with the right facts basis, in particular with the elections coming up.

”The food is not expensive in a European comparison, without the taxes”, he tells Aamulehti.

Mikko Helander has also studied Kesko’s stores in Russia on location and concludes there is no lack of neither supply nor consumer spending.
”Strategic line has not changed, we will continue to moderate in Russia forward, but of course I follow the political situation,” Helander says.