The year 2016 was a time of change in our business environment as well as our own operations. Our business developed favorably, we launched new change projects and carried out new business acquisitions.
The Finnish economy is gradually returning to growth, which is having a positive impact on consumer confidence. This is reflected in the development of the retail trade which, according to the Finnish Commerce Federation, saw turnover growth of nearly two percent in 2016.
Our home market also includes Sweden and the Baltic countries, where economic growth slowed down slightly in 2016. The Baltic region was nevertheless among the leaders in economic growth in the eurozone. Our business developed favorably in Sweden and the Baltic countries, particularly in the agricultural supplies trade. We harmonized the operations of the Berner Group in the Baltic countries towards the end of the year by having our subsidiaries adopt the Berner name and brand.
Continued changes in commerce
Discussions on the state of the Finnish commerce sector have been very active in recent years, both in the media and within the retail sector itself. There was significant upheaval in commerce in 2016, including the Anttila bankruptcy, intensifying discussions on prices and the continued growth of e-commerce. Our key partners have adapted to the ongoing changes well. At Berner, we respond to the changes by ensuring the competitiveness of our offering; for example, through consumer insight and our category expertise.
Renewal measures in production and expansion of business operations
Consumer surveys indicate that a growing number of Finns consider the environmental impacts, local sourcing and responsibility of the products they buy. Our domestic production and product development meet the needs of highly aware consumers. In recent times, we have carried out several development projects and investments at our production facilities in Heinävesi to increase production efficiency and reduce our environmental impact. One example is the project to improve the efficiency of waste water treatment, which is part of Berner’s environmental program, as well as our investment in new machinery to package liquids in pouches. The investment supported the renewal of Lasol, Finland’s leading brand of windshield washer liquid. The new packaging is easy to recycle and generates up to 65 percent less waste than ordinary plastic bottles.
In line with our strategy, we also continued to pursue growth through acquisitions. One of the highlights of the year was the acquisition of the business operations of Ordior Ltd., a company specializing in the sales and import of laboratory equipment in Finland and Estonia, which was previously part of the University Pharmacy Group. The Ordior acquisition strengthens our market position in the field of professional laboratory solutions and represents strategically significant expansion into the field of healthcare, research and wellness technology.
We again enhanced Berner’s comprehensive offering aimed at Finnish farmers by joining the development of the Finnish startup GrainSense. The company’s products provide farmers with new tools for measuring grain quality and support better management of grain pricing.
Starting Finland’s centennial year with a positive spirit
We join the rest of the country in celebrating the centennial of Finland’s independence in 2017. Berner has a long tradition of being part of Finnish business and the daily lives of Finns. In 2017 and beyond, we aim to continue to delight Finns with high-quality products that are equally well suited to daily life and special occasions. Together with our personnel, we will congratulate and surprise Finns throughout the year by giving out a hundred gift sets to celebrate the jubilee year.
The centennial of Finland’s independence will also see Berner’s head office functions move to new premises under one roof. At the same time, we will implement a new work culture aimed at developing our operations and the well-being of our personnel. We believe that effective work premises contribute to the higher quality of working life.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our personnel for their valuable contribution towards our positive growth. I also want to thank our partners and customers for their cooperation and I welcome everyone to visit our new office!