Finland is known for its breathtaking beauty, many lakes, and its world-famous sauna—but not an animal-friendly cuisine. Compared to the vegan riches of Copenhagen, Reykjavik, or even Stockholm, Finland has been slower to adopt a plant-based culture. That is changing, though: Animal product consumption in Finland has been decreasing, while a plant-based, vegan lifestyle is increasing among Finns. According to Mari Niva, professor of food and culture at the University of Helsinki, this is due to “the widespread debate witnessed in the past couple of years about climate change and the environmental effects of meat.” Milk and cheese consumption has dropped significantly in recent years. Meanwhile, the Natural Resources Institute Finland found that annual meat consumption has been decreasing by an average of 1.5 kg per household. On the other hand, consumption of fresh vegetables in Finnish households has been increasing, and the consumption of oats has risen by nearly 30% since 2019. Also, a recent survey conducted by dairy company, Arla, found that “17 percent of young Finns observe a lactose-free diet. Six percent are mainly vegetarians, two percent vegan.”
Vegan food can be easily found in nearly any Finnish food service location. Vegan products are prevalent in popular fast food shops. McDonalds launched the ‘McVegan,” a plant-based burger in Tampere, Finland in 2017, which has risen to popularity since then and can be found in the chain’s locations throughout Finland. This year, Pizza Hut launched a line of vegan pizzas and began selling vegan Ben and Jerry’s ice cream at their Finnish locations. In Finland, Taco Bell sells a variety of plant-based products as well, using black beans and oat protein.
Oat-based products are extremely popular here, like GOLD&GREEN, a plant-based oat protein company recently featured in Bloomberg. Their products are available in most grocery stores and they supply the oat protein for Taco Bell. Oatly, a Swedish company sells oat milk and delicious oat-based cream cheeses that can be found at nearly any grocery store. Many other companies sell oat-based products and oat milk. A personal favorite of mine is Aito’s oat milk, which is great to have with a morning cup of coffee or tea.
Every Finnish grocery store I have visited sells a plethora of vegan cheeses, milks, and protein of all varieties, with oat and seitan being the most common. Vegan desserts, cereals and really, anything you can think to veganize can be easily accessed. Fresh vegan pastries are commonly available at Finnish supermarkets. A popular vegan grocery chain, Vegekauppa, was founded in 2019, with locations in Finland’s three largest cities (Helsinki, Tampere, and Turku). One of my favorite products there is ‘Happy V Salami’, a delicious vegan sausage created by Russian company, Krasnodar, and a vegan Brie cheese created by Germany company, Happy Cheeze.
Most restaurants in Finland offer vegan items, and 100% vegan and vegetarian restaurants are easily accessible in Finland’s larger cities. In Helsinki, vegan restaurants are especially popular. Om Nam is a popular sit-down restaurant in Helsinki. Try Raw n More for their delicious raw vegan lasagna. Before the coronavirus, Hirvitalo’s Folk Kitchen was a popular vegan hangout in Tampere, offering a communal, all-vegan food experience for three to six euros. The kitchen was volunteer-based and open on Saturday nights, featuring live music, DJ sets, short films, and lectures.
Vegan events are also very prevalent in Finland. A popular annual vegan event, held since 2017, is a festival called Vegemessut, located in Helsinki. Vegan vendors, animal rights groups, and animal rescuers would gather together to promote their products and services. It’s a great way to try out new products, connect with the vegan community, and to find ways to get involved in promoting veganism.
Vegan activism and the vegan community is growing in Finland. A popular animal rights organization in Finland is Animalia. For the past 60 years, they have been working to affect the conditions of animals at all levels of society. They work by campaigning, educating, and influencing political decision making. Currently, due to COVID, many of their events are virtual. Some of their recent campaigns raise awareness of animal exploitation on Finnish fur farms.
Another popular animal rights activist group is Animal Save Finland, “a vegan, anti-speciesist and animal-centric organization that organizes itself against all forms of oppression.” I had the pleasure to attend their Official Animal Rights March in August 2019. We marched 6km through Helsinki, celebrating animal rights and giving speeches related to animal rights and activism.
Another great group for Finns to get involved in the vegan community is thought The Finnish Vegan Society (Vegaaniliitto), founded in 1993 to “promote vegetarianism and veganism, a way of life that avoids all or parts of the products and services of animal origin.” Their most recent events occurred in the summer, and included nutrition lectures for vegans, summer pop-up vegan cafes, and remote meetings (due to COVID).
If you are interested in attending other vegan events in Finland, you can visit Vegevents and search for Finland.
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Photo: Hert Niks via Unsplash; Vegekauppa via Twitter; Raw n More via Facebook; Vegemessut; Animalia; Angela Werner