Altia and the Rajamäki plant turn 130
Altia and its Rajamäki plant are celebrating their 130th anniversary this year. Altia’s story began on 20 August 1888, when a group of engineers decided to establish a yeast plant in Rajamäki. One of the main reasons why Rajamäki was selected as the location for the plant was the plentiful and pure groundwater found in the area. Over 130 years, Altia has evolved from a yeast producer to the leading wine and spirits company in the Nordic countries and a listed company.
The company’s original name was Hyvinge Fabriks Aktiebolag, or Hyvinkään Tehtaan Osakeyhtiö in Finnish, and its establishment was led by Doctor Wilhelm Juslin. Rajamäki was chosen as a home for the new plant because it was located by the railway section that ran between Hyvinkää and Hanko, thanks to which raw materials and the products could be transported efficiently. In addition, the area had abundant reserves of groundwater.
Spirits, perfumes and Molotov cocktails
Initially, the Rajamäki plant manufactured compressed yeast and, by the same process, spirits, ether and vinegar. Once the Prohibition Act went into effect in 1919, ownership of the plant was transferred to the state. This led to the establishment of the state enterprise Valtion Alkoholiliike, which was responsible for the production of alcohol for medical, technical and scientific purposes during the prohibition, in 1919–1932. Throughout the prohibition years, the Rajamäki plant also produced perfumes, for example. Petrol bombs, commonly known as “Molotov cocktails”, were made at the plant during the war.
The manufacturing of alcoholic beverages at Rajamäki began in April 1932, when prohibition ended. One of the products introduced to the market that very same was Jaloviina, which Altia has continued to produce to this day. Koskenkorva entered the market some twenty years later, in 1953, meaning that 2018 marks its 65th anniversary.
Untreated groundwater is the heart of the company
Today, the Rajamäki plant is a modern alcoholic beverage plant which produces more than 700 different brand names of wines and spirits. The majority of Altia’s own drinks are bottled in Rajamäki. The plant’s annual production is more than 60 million litres (63.4 million litres in 2017).
To this day, Altia uses the groundwater of Rajamäki in the production of beverages. The groundwater in Rajamäki is pure enough to be used in beverage production as it is, without any treatment at all. Altia owns 1,100 hectares of land in Rajamäki to allow for the protection of the groundwater. The water arrives to the plant from the Solttila and Mars water catchments. The properties of Rajamäki water also allow Altia to identify any possible counterfeit products.
Koskenkorva distillery as an example of the circular economy
A significant milestone in Altia’s history was achieved in the spring of 1941, when the company was able to run its first test distillation at the Koskenkorva distillery, completed in the village of Koskenkorva, at Ilmajoki. Nowadays the Koskenkorva plant is a circular economy-based distillery, which uses around 200 million kilos of barley a year. Every bit of the barley grain is used, and the hulls end up being incinerated in the plant’s own bioenergy power plant, which enables the plant to be 60 per cent fuel self-sufficient in its production of steam energy. In addition to grain spirit, the Koskenkorva plant produces starch and raw material for animal feed.
From a yeast company to a listed company
Altia and Alko were separated from one another in 1995. Altia continued the production and import of beverages as a state-owned company competing on the free markets.
These days, Altia is a leading Nordic wine and spirits company, which owns some of the most well-known beverage brands in the Nordic countries. Altia has operations in the Nordic and Baltic countries and both a cognac bottling plant and aging cellars in Cognac, France. Altia exports its products to more than 30 countries. Altia’s 130-year-old story culminated in its listing on the Helsinki stock exchange in March this year.
Olli Kauppila: Rajamäen tehtaat 1888–1988 100-vuotiskirja
Martti Häikiö: Alkon historia
Altia Plc’s Annual Report 2007