Small But Mighty – Founder of Wild Nordic Berries on the Power of Finnish Fruit

Wild Nordic Berries

‘Superfoods’: despite the good intentions, it’s a term that can generate quite a bit of bad press.

For every headline that reveals the latest wonder food we need in our kitchens to boost health, there is another that proclaims that we need to stop wasting our money on the latest health fad and that the term is little more than a marketing tactic.

In the end of the day,  all people need to know is that any plant-based food is a superfood – but there are some that pack an extra nutritional punch.

We’ve all heard of goji and acai berries, but Maija Griffin spotted a big gap in the market for the small berries of her homeland in Finland.

We chatted to her about the power of Wild Nordic Berries, and how you can fit a little Finland into your diet – they really are super.

Wild Nordic Berries Photo: Studio Timo Heikkala Oy / TIMO HEIKKALA

Hi Maija, can you tell us a little about yourself and what brought you Ireland?

I was born and reared in the province of North Karelia in the Eastern Lake Region of Finland. I started life, as many people do, on a totally different path. I studied linguistics at Joensuu and Turku Universities completing an MA in French and English.

It was during my time at university that I was first exposed to the Irish way of life. I had a good level of fluency in English and thanks to that I was given the responsibility of orienting our English-speaking foreign students. That’s when I met Irish people and found their friendliness and love of life very refreshing, and felt a great connection to them.

I made some great Irish great and went to Ireland on holiday to visit my good friend Kelly. During that visit I met my husband and ended up moving to Dublin after I completed my MA a couple of years later.

What inspired you to start-up the business?

I had been away from an active working life for a number of years, as I stayed home with our four young children. Having said that I always said to my husband Liam that if there was a really good product that i felt could be adaptable and be very useful over here, I would love the opportunity to do just that and bridge the gap.

So last summer when I came across the Biokia range of berry products, it was really a no-brainer for me to introduce them to the Irish market. Wild berries are the one part of the Finnish food culture that I have always missed living in Ireland and here was the opportunity to be able to not only use these fantastic berries just for my own family, but to also share the joy with others.

Finland is an expansive country with a relatively small population so there is plenty of wilderness, and the region I am from is surrounded by woods and lakes. Therefore an ideal growth area for wild berries. My family and I would spend hours in the woods collecting all of natures goodness and using them in the home throughout the summer and freeze the remainder and use them to get us through the hard winters.

I’ve been delighted to see the healthy eating trend take such a strong hold in Ireland in recent years and the variety of healthy foods on the market here is impressive so I thought the Wild Berries would fit in nicely!Nowadays many products are marketed as ‘superfoods’; what is so special about Wild Nordic Berries?

Wild berries are small but they pack a mighty nutrient punch! If farmed berries are superfoods which we all agree, then wild berries are super-super foods!

They are loaded with antioxidants, high in fibre (twice that of farmed), have no added sugar, sodium or refined starches. Exceptional spire of magnesium 8 times more than farmed and they add important dietary nutrients without adding a lot of “empty” carbs.

Wild Blueberries are especially rich in anthocyanin, a flavonoid with potent antioxidant capacity. United States Department of Agriculture found that a one-cup serving of Wild Blueberries has more total antioxidant capacity (TAC) than 20 other fruits and veggies, including cranberries, grapes, strawberries, plums, raspberries and even cultivated blueberries. In fact wild bilberries have two times the antioxidant power of farmed blueberries.

Wild Nordic Berries Photo: Studio Timo Heikkala Oy / TIMO HEIKKALA

They are “wild” meaning that they grow naturally in the woods of northern Finland. No pesticides or any growth inducing or helping chemical is used in their creation, just sunshine and rain. They come with no ‘boiling notices’ they are consistent all year round as they are a dried product and have a great 1 year + shelf life.

They grow in the northern regions of Finland where they are subject to a very short and intense life cycle with sunshine 24 hours a day. During the short summer season the sun literally never sets, which creates a unique growing environment. This ensures that they are packed with nutrients by the time they are hand-picked and brought back for drying. This drying process locks in all the goodness for you to enjoy!

Are there any products similar to Wild Nordic Berries available in Ireland?

As far as I am aware, there are no other products with Wild Bilberry or Wild Lingonberry in Ireland.Where do you source your berries?

The Wild Nordic Berry products are harvested and dried by Biokia who are based in the northern part of Finland. As Finland is a full member of the EU, they are subject to the strict production criteria and therefore you can rest assured that you are purchasing a quality product every time.

What products are now in the range?

Our current range includes wild berry powders in bilberry, lingonberry, cranberry and sea buckthorn, red berry powder mix and blue berry powder mix flavours.

We also have fully dried whole lingonberries, bilberries, cranberries and a berry mix, along with milk chocolate covered bilberries, cranberries and lingonberries, and white chocolate covered lingonberries.Which is the most popular?

All have a good fan-base, different products suit different people. If I had to pick one it would probably be Bilberry powder or Chocolate covered Cranberries.

Can you tell us some of your favourite ways to use your products?

I adore the convenience of the products! We use the berry powders at home mixed into porridge or yoghurt, sprinkle dried berries on breakfast cereals or use them in energy balls. I love the fact that I always have wild berries in the cupboard, never have to worry about whether I have something healthy to give the kids to kick off the day.

I have included some great recipes on the website which can be found wildnordicberries.com/recipes.

Where are you stocked?

All our products are available for sale through the website. However we are always open to talking to third parties such as retailers who feel this product may be a good fit for them.

INTERVIEW BY ERICA BRACKEN

erica-brackenErica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father, and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after completing a law degree, she went on to do a Masters in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica; allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.

Erica Bracken  Erica Bracken

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