by Ruari McCallion
The Finnish company Pramia Plastic Oy manufactures rPET granulate, from which its parent company Pramia Oy manufactures its entire range of bottles without using any additives. The exclusive use of rPET reflects Pramia Oy’s commitment to environmental sustainability, which was recognised in 2012, the same year it acquired the company that became Pramia Plastic Oy, with the World’s Most Sustainable Beverage Manufacturer award.
A family affair
Pramia Oy itself was founded in 1990 by members of the Mäkinen family, who still own and manage it. Initially, the company focused on malt drinks, including low-alcohol “home beer”, a popular choice with meals at home. After Finland joined the EU in 1995, Pramia expanded its range to include the production of spirits, such as vodka. As in all Nordic countries except Denmark, the retail sale of alcoholic beverages is through a state monopoly company. Alko, the Finnish monopoly, is the only retail chain in the country that sells beer with ABV of 5.5% or more, wine (other than direct sales by vineyards) and spirits. In 2017, its annual revenue exceeded €1.1 billion. By law, it must also offer lower ABV and non-alcoholic beverages.
“Alko asked Pramia to produce lightly carbonated beverages for sale under its own brand, and mocktails were added soon after,” says Marko Mäkinen, founder and CEO of Pramia Oy and Pramia Plastic Oy. “The company has a small share of the Finnish alcoholic beverage market but, in some lines, such as cream liqueurs, our presence is much stronger.”
Pramia Oy’s market is almost entirely in Finland; it does not export any of its beverage products, although it supplies to duty-free shops on ferries and ships in the Baltic Sea. However, Pramia Plastic Oy sells rPET and PET strap to several European countries. It buys consumer PET bottles and processes an average of one million of them a day at its Toholampi plant into flakes and plastic granules. It also produces 50 million metres of green packaging strap a year from coloured rPET. The plant runs entirely on wind energy.
At first, Pramia Oy packed its products in glass bottles but switched to PET in the early 2000s. It began to investigate recycled PET in 2010. In 2012, the opportunity arose to buy out of bankruptcy a company that already had granulation and washing lines. A strap production line was added, Pramia Plastic Oy was founded and Pramia Oy started using rPET in the same year.
Marko is proud of the quality of Pramia Plastic’s materials, which means that he does not need to use additives to make clear plastic bottles from rPET. “Pramia does not have its own system for bottle recovery; we buy them from two separate recycling companies in Finland, both of which use reverse vending machines. Consumers receive between 10 and 40 cents for a returned bottle, which is funded by breweries. They collect and bale the returned bottles, and Pramia Plastic collects them,” he said. “The quality of our recovered bottles is world-class, which means that we can produce rPET packaging in quantities that are not possible in other countries. We have also invested in the world’s best reprocessing equipment and, in some cases, modified it to suit our needs.” Pramia Plastic is responsible for all recycling and production processes, including flakeing, granulation and sorting; rPET production up to moulds and blown bottles is handled by Pramia Oy for its own use. It makes ten different bottles, ranging in size from 187 ml to 1 l, both round and oval. The largest single product line is 35 cl oval bottles, with 75 cl sparkling wine bottles in second place. Beer and wine bottles are made with a barrier in them, but otherwise the bottles are the same for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Although Pramia’s market share in Finland is relatively small, it has a major impact. The development of Pramia Plastic has not always been without problems; in fact, Marko says that the first seven years of its existence were quite difficult. Then, quite quickly, the market changed; rPET was approved, demand increased sharply and it found that customers made offers against each other for the product. In Finland, about 96 per cent of bottles are now recycled. According to Marko Mäkinen, Pramia’s success is due to investments, hard work (of course) and, especially, the personnel. “I’ve had to take sick leave lately, but when a company has good employees and processes in place, it can handle it,” he said.
Pramia’s focus on recycling and quality has been recognised with several awards. Pramia Plastic received the National Entrepreneur Award of the Federation of Central Ostrobothnia Enterprises in 2022. The latest gem in Pramia Plastic Oy’s crown came on October 7, 2023, when it received the national entrepreneur award from Fennia and the Federation of Finnish Enterprises at the National Entrepreneur Day in Pori. Marko considers it one of the highlights of his career. “The National Entrepreneur Award feels very good – first and foremost because it is awarded by other entrepreneurs,” he said.