The announcement will see Finland's largest dairy company and the country's leading producer of grain based and vegetable oil based foods join forces with the common goal of combining Valio's knowledge of the nutrients and other components of milk with Raisio's expertise in grains and fats.
"Raisio and Valio have a history of positive co-operation in areas such as the extension of the cholesterol-lowering Benecol product family in the Finnish market. Deeper research co-operation will enable the creation and commercialisation of new Finnish food innovations on the international stage, too," said Raisio CEO, Rabbe Klemets.
The companies have not as yet agreed on any specific projects for co-operation, but the first planning meeting is scheduled for this month, said the companies in a statement.
"Valio is delighted to have this opportunity to promote co-operation and research expertise within Finnish industry," said Harry Salonaho, president and CEO of Valio. "Raisio, like Valio, conducts high-quality research, and together we can achieve results in some areas more cost-efficiently than either company could do alone."
The co-operative is in-line with a wider Finnish initiate, named the Finnish National Fund for Research and Development (Sitra) Food and Nutrition Programme (ERA) to make Finland a competitive and a top expert in food research. "I believe that the fruits of this co-operation will also benefit consumers through tasty and wholesome products," said Salonaho.
Valio, founded in 1905, is one of the biggest Nordic dairy processors and has been a leader in innovation, being one of the first to develop its own probiotic bacterial strain with which to develop functional dairy products.
The company currently operates 15 production plants in Finland, two in Estonia and one in Belgium. And in 2004 the company's turnover was €1.6bn, with sales in Russia constituting about €90m. Its commodity trade with CIS countries makes up a quarter of its total export volume.
Fresh dairy products account for 40.3 per cent of the Group's net turnover, cheeses 28.4 per cent, butter and spreads 12.6 per cent, milk- and whey based powders 6.4 per cent, ice cream 3 per cent and other products 9.3 per cent.
Raisio, meanwhile, is best known for its Benecol brand of plant stanols, which first saw the light of day 11 years ago. Now there are ten different types of Benecol products sold by 20 partners in 23 different global markets.
The Benecol brand of plant-stanol containing products has become increasingly important for the Finnish functional foods company in recent years. Despite an overall slip in operating profits in Q1 2006 reported in May, strong demand for Benecol in Europe pushed up overall ingredients sales to €13.2m, from €11.3m in Q1 2005.