Discover the story of O. Kavli AB, a cheese innovator with heart 

Established in 1893, O. Kavli AB Ltd (Kavli) is a renowned condiments and cheese producer. Originally operating as a small cheese store in Bergen, Norway, Kavli has since expanded its food businesses across Sweden, Finland, and the UK. This expansion led to the creation of Kavli’s most popular brands, which include Q-Meieriene, Skyr, Primula, Castle MacLellan, Eriks, Johnny’s, and Planti. Today, the company employs over 900 skilled individuals who manufacture and market Kavli’s many brands, with annual sales of more than €400 million. Notably, Kavli directs its profits to Kavli Trust, an organization distributing funds to meaningful and deserving causes. Jonny Mattsson, CEO of Kavli Sweden & Finland, provides a detailed account of the company’s history. 

Jonny Mattsson“Our founder, Olav Kavli, was passionate about producing the first spreadable cheese in the Nordics. So, in 1924, he introduced that product and began exporting it to different markets. Initially focused on cheese production, Kavli expanded its portfolio as it grew by establishing sales offices and acquiring various businesses, eventually setting up separate companies in the UK, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. The Swedish business, which I oversee, was founded as a separate entity in 1940, with a satellite office based in Norway. Because it operates within so many different categories, the Swedish business stands out from Kavli’s other companies. For instance, our UK brands specialize in cheese, pâtés, spreads and similar products and our Norwegian company is the second largest dairy producer in the country. Meanwhile, in Sweden, we not only produce cheese, but also a wide array of condiments such as mustards, dressings, barbecue sauces, ketchup, and all kinds of other sauces. Whilst Kavli currently boasts 11 distinct brands, it is worth noting that we used to have 12. However, in October 2023, we decided to divest our plant-based division, Planti, which operated a factory in Finland. The business was sold off to Oddlygood, a renowned company in the plant-based industry,” he begins. 

Charitable commitment 

Upon Olav’s passing, his son assumed leadership of Kavli in 1958. Recognizing the importance of supporting humanitarian causes, he established a trust in 1962, ensuring that all the company’s proceeds would be donated to charity. “The funding from the trust is allocated as follows: 60 percent of the proceeds funds humanitarian work, while 30 percent goes towards research and the remaining ten is assigned to culture. In terms of the causes we support, we currently have two main priorities, which are child and adolescent mental health, and smart solutions for the climate and environment. Still, we donate our money to causes all over the world, notably in Africa, India, and of course, our local communities in Scandinavia. To promote child and adolescent mental health in the UK, we support a significant number of charities, such as New Writing North, Curious Monkey, SAGE, Partnership for Children, Washington Mind, Mortal Fools, Children North East, Salvation Army and Young Women’s Outreach Project. Moreover, we back some international projects, like Human Practice Foundation. In Sweden, we are involved with food banks, for which demand has dramatically increased over the last two years due to the cost-of-living crisis. Additionally, we support important research projects in the country, including those led at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, to which we donate generous amounts every year. 

“Central to our corporate culture is our employee donations. Every year, we allocate approximately three million SEK from the trust and empower our employees to nominate organizations to receive these funds. After shortlisting organizations, we host a celebration where the chosen organizations are awarded their donation. It becomes very emotional when representatives and clients from the winning organization share their stories on stage. In the last couple of years, the Cancer Rehab Fund has consistently garnered the highest number of votes. This foundation’s mission is to support cancer patients once they have completed their treatment at the hospital. Often left on their own and traumatized, the Cancer Rehab Fund enables these patients to meet people who have gone through the same experience. Through initiatives such as camp weeks, the Cancer Rehab Fund creates communities that foster mutual support and understanding. As this trust relies entirely on donations, each contribution we make enables them to keep running these camps. We believe this makes it a truly meaningful cause to support,” Jonny highlights. 

Positive impact 

On the topic of sustainability, Jonny shares that Kavli is making great strides in preventing food waste. “Kavli has signed the most important local initiatives regarding transportation and plastics, as well as the science-based targets initiative. Our primary ambitions are to reduce our emissions footprint and avoid food waste. We place a particular emphasis on the latter for two specific reasons. Firstly, throwing away food has significant financial implications for our company. But most importantly, it has negative effects on the environment. Thus, to tackle the issue of food waste, we have installed systems to automatically track downtime during production. By doing so, we can minimize waste during startup and shutdown periods. The integration of automation and digital tools enables us to efficiently plan our production, allowing for longer production runs and reducing waste associated with the startup and cleaning processes,” he affirms. 

Through its unwavering commitment to innovation and waste reduction in all aspects of its operations, coupled with its support for crucial humanitarian causes via its fund, Kavli is poised to make a lasting positive impact on countless lives for years to come.