History in a few liquorice bites

The foundation of Kouvolan Lakritsi was cast in Vyborg already in 1906. The company descends from the Vyborg-based Makeis- ja Mehu Oy that found new headquarters in Uusikaupunki after the war, seeing that Vyborg was lost in the war. At Christmas 1945, among shortage and rationing, the state authorities nobly granted Makeis- ja Mehu Oy a small batch of ingredients for making such luxury as liquorice – and the rest is history.

As the company’s production expanded in 1960, all confectionery operations were moved to Kouvola. Already then, liquorice reaped fame as an excellent product, after all, it was one of Makeis- ja Mehu Oy’s flagship products.

As the company moved, it was decided to develop the liquorice production. A liquorice consultant by the name of H. Knoch was invited all the way from England to perform the precious task. He fine-tuned the recipe to the one we know today. Even back then, there were many players in the liquorice market but after Mr. Knoch’s work, Makeis- ja Mehu Oy’s liquorice stood clearly out from competitors’ products.

The new flavour made sales soar and the company’s management figured that the fine brand should have a fine name – ENGLISH TASTE. Naturally the name was inspired by England, the country of origin of confectionary liquorice, and it just happened that Mr. Knoch was from there too.

However, English was not an easy language for Finns at that time, which is why afecionados of our liquorice started to call the product based on where it was made. The company’s management took the hint and the popular product became officially known as Kouvola liquorice.

Makeis- ja Mehu Oy ceased operations in 1990. At the same time, the production of Kouvola liquorice was transferred to the associate company and largest shareholder, Papulan Vesitehdas Oy, that had started operations as a lemonade and mineral water factory in the Papula area of Vyborg on May 1, 1906.

As Makeis- ja Mehu Oy’s companion in fate, Papula had also had to leave Vyborg due to the war in 1944. Via a stint in Lappeenranta, Papula ended up establishing its own factory in the Tornionmäki area of Kouvola in 1947. Of course, the original factory has been expanded and renovated several times but Kouvola liquorice has been continuously produced at this location since 1960.

In the 1960s, Papula also had its fingers in the café and bakery businesses. Papulan Vesitehdas Oy’s and Papula Bakery’s industrial production ended in 1971. By then, the company’s history comprised 65 years of bottling soft drinks. At that time, the beverage industry experienced centralisation, which trampled on small businesses. At the same time, the bakery business found itself in the middle of a profitability crisis, mainly due to stubborn rationing policies imposed by the state authorities. As such, the fairly wealthy company ceased its own production and continued solely as a wealth management company until it started operations as a liquorice producer.

Papula played its biggest role as the producer of Kouvola liquorice in 1990-1997. Production decreased slightly at times but despite everything, its market share kept growing. With Papula at the reins, success in the international markets was sought and exports grew by more than tenfold during that time.

Timo Nisula bought the liquorice factory with Mikko Vilenius in the spring of 2008. In 2014, Nisula became the sole owner. At the same time, exports were increased and now Kouvola liquorice can be enjoyed for example in Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Canada.

Kouvolan Lakritsi received a provincial entrepreneur prize

Kymen Yrittäjät (Entrepreneurs of Kyme) awarded Kouvolan Lakritsi with the 2015 provincial entrepreneur prize. The decision was influenced by the liquorice factory’s long history, operational developments even in difficult times, positive awareness as well as local operations.

Milestones of the liquorice factory

Significant moments on the journey of Kouvolan Lakritsi all the way from Vyborg in the beginning of the 20th century.

May 1, 1906
Factory owner Richard Ötzmann and Joseph Forsten established the operations of Papulan Vesitehdas Oy in Vyborg.

The ownership of Papulan Vesitehdas Oy was transferred to Matti Kotonen, who continued water-related operations until the last wars in Finland.

May 31, 1942
Makeis- ja Mehu Oy started operations in Vyborg. Reino Olkku, who had worked as the CEO of Jalostaja Oy, owned by Huhtamäki Group, founded the company together with his brother Ilmari Olkku.

June 10, 1944
Makeis- ja Mehu was moved from the war front to Uusikaupunki.

June 17, 1944
The last staff members of Makeis- ja Mehu Oy and Papulan Vesitehdas Oy left Vyborg. Papulan Vesitehdas Oy was evacuated to Lappeenranta.

May 3, 1947
Papulan Vesitehdas received a permit to construct an industrial building in the Tornionmäki area of Kouvola.

Papula Bakery commenced operations in Kouvola.

Papula Café was opened.

Makeis- ja Mehu Oy’s confectionery production is moved from Uusikaupunki to Kouvola. The popular liquorice now becomes “Kouvola Liquorice”. Mr. H. Knoch fine-tunes the recipe.

Papula’s own production operations are ceased. Resources are centralised around the development of Makeis- ja Mehu Oy.

Makeis- ja Mehu Oy’s operations are ceased and Papulan Vesitehdas Oy becomes a liquorice factory. Kouvolan Lakritsi has a strong presence in the markets and it is growing steadily.

Kouvola liquorice is chosen as Finland’s best liquorice in Suomen Paras (Finland’s Best) tv show on MTV3.

Papulan Vesitehdas ceases operations and the production of Kouvola liquorice is transferred to Erkki and Minna Tarkkala. The Tornionmäki factory is renovated to a large extent and the production capacity of liquorice reaches new heights.

April 3, 2008
Makeisneuvos Oy becomes the new owner of Kouvolan Lakritsi. Mikko Vilenius and Timo Nisula become the new factory operators.

Timo Nisula becomes the sole owner of Kouvolan Lakritsi, investing in export efforts.

Kouvolan Lakritsi receives the 2015 provincial entrepreneurship prize from Kymen Yrittäjät.

Liquorice has been a tasty favourite throughout various moments in history

As years have passed and history has taken several different turns, all kinds of gastronomists have munched on liquorice and the delicacy has also been used as a medicinal remedy.

4000 BC
Liquorice is widely used as a medicinal plant in Assyria, the Mesopotamian kingdom.

1500 BC
Egyptians use liquorice as medicine and it is placed in pharaohs’ tombs as sustenance for the path to the unknown.

360 BC
Alexander the Great conquered Persia and Greece, all the way from Asia Minor to Egypt and India. On this journey, his soldiers used liquorice to improve their marching stamina and as medicine to treat various maladies.

Approx. 270 BC
Romans used liquorice while marching in the desert.

Approx. 250-185 BC
Hannibal conquered Italy and used liquorice as medicine and to gain strength.

Approx. since 1200
Liquorice was made for the first time in an industrial manner by cooking it on an open fire after which the mixture was allowed to solidify.

In the Shakespearean era, Spanish monks were granted the exclusive right to grow liquorice root in Yorkshire County near a little town called PONTEFRACT.

18th century
Napoleon Bonaparte trusted the medicinal effects of liquorice and used it to calm his nerves in battles.

George Dunhill from England accidentally mixed flour and sugar with liquorice extract and happened to invent what we know today as confectionery liquorice.

Finland experienced strong economic growth and the upward trend saw the birth of the Finnish confectionery industry, to whose product selection liquorice belonged from the very beginning.

At the origins of the taste

The good taste of liquorice originates from the liquorice plant, more exactly the decoction process. The liquorice plant is cultivated to a great extent in the area reaching from the Mediterranean to China. Nowadays, the most important cultivation lands are in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and China. Originally, the liquorice plant grew in the area stretching from the Mediterranean to Afghanistan. Glygyrrhiza is a liquorice plant genus of 18 species, all of which sprout blue blossoms, pinnate leaves and underground rhizome.

There is evidence of the plant having been used as medicine already in the ancient Egypt. The Greek called it Glycyrrhiza, the sweet root. They valued the sweetness of the plant and its calming properties. Cultivating the plant became common in the Middle Ages. Nowadays, in addition to making confectionery liquorice, the root of the liquorice plant is used in medicines to disguise the bad taste and as an expectorant.