From village mill to international market: the Lithuanian family business exporting food innovations
Natural foods are now more popular than ever. As more and more consumers look for healthier food options that make them feel good and help them maintain a balanced diet and lifestyle, the food industry is seeking innovative alternatives to deliver value. But with fierce competition in a crowded market, new companies need to offer innovative and distinctive products to make themselves stand out. Ustukių malūnas, a small family-owned mill in Lithuania, is doing exactly that in Germany, offering wholegrain cakes made with protein-rich powders – including more imaginative options containing spirulina and even ground insects.
For those eager to experiment, the options are endless
Ustukių malūnas takes an innovative approach to its work, which mostly involves the processing of various cereal products: wholegrain cakes, crisps, flour, grains, cereal flakes, and pasta and that means plenty of experimentation. Take the company’s unique products made with ground insects, for example. These are a rich source of protein in various meals, including wholegrain cakes. These can include insect protein powder, but also spirulina. This vitamin-rich algae aren’t always known as a mouth-watering option – but Ustukių malūnas has managed to come up with a smart recipe that makes it both nutritious and delicious. According to Kipras Uždavinys, the owner of Ustukių malūnas, the company’s cakes are high in protein, fibre and other added nutrients.
“It has always been our company’s direction – to offer healthier food options for our customers. It creates value”, says Kipras. Not only does the company produce the wholegrain cakes themselves, it has also developed the special technology needed to produce the raw products used to make them. “We produce the raw materials ourselves,” explains the owner. “That’s why we have the advantage of time to try out multiple experiments every week, so that we can offer people unique alternatives.”. One of the company’s latest creations is rye bread mini-cakes that serve as a healthier snack option. “They are made out of real black rye bread, and offer the rich taste of traditional Lithuanian bread, with the option of added flavours”, says Kipras.
The challenges of international expansion
Ustukių malūnas already sells both its regular products and more experimental varieties in the German market, under its own brand name or as a private label. The company is working to gain further international certification – a process that requires significant financial investment. According to the company manager, obtaining these certificates will open up even more export opportunities.
Founded in 1992, Ustukių malūnas takes its name from Ustukiai, a village near Pasvalys in Lithuania, where the company’s first office and production facility were based. ‘Malūnas’ is the Lithuanian word for a mill – a key element of the company’s production process. In recent years, the company has expanded into other markets, selling its products in around 28 countries –and the number is still growing. “The company is mostly active in big European markets such as Spain and the Czech Republic, as well as targeting important markets outside the European Union, such as Turkey, Israel, the UAE and potentially the USA”, says Kipras Uždavinys.
Lithuania is a perfect place for women to join tech industries as the country is one of the fastest-growing centres of life sciences in Europe and has a vibrant ICT, financial technologies, video game, and laser sectors. The start-up community, which has already exceeded one thousand companies, attracts talents from all over the world to innovate and think about solutions that can contribute to a global change for the better in many spheres, ranging from gene editing to solving circular economy challenges.
In implementing the Strategy for the Presentation of Lithuania Abroad 2020-2030 and ensuring the country’s overall positioning as “open for co-creation”, the entrepreneurship and export development agency Enterprise Lithuania presented the Co-created in Lithuania country of origin brand and unified national export stand concept at the Lithuanian Business Forum.