Saimaa Gastronomy Weekends awarded the best Finnish food travel product in 2019

The Hungry for Finland panel also awarded three other food travel products and gave two honorary mentions. The awards were presented by Jaana Husu-Kallio, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and Paavo Virkkunen, Executive Vice President at Business Finland/Visit Finland. A total of 42 diverse high-calibre candidates were considered.

The four businesses of the Saimaa Gastronomy cooperation network – Hotel Punkaharju, Sahanlahti Resort, TeaHouse of Wehmais and Tertti Manor – form a themed inventory that draws on the region’s charms, allowing travellers to pick and choose their favourites, and create custom packages or tours. Each business is family-owned. They are located in different parts of the region, representing the whole of Saimaa. Their strategy includes the promotion of local food and providing employment to local people.  The Saimaa Gastronomy Weekends, which include various activities and local food, are held outside the summer high season. Saimaa Gastronomy is a stellar example of cooperation between companies, the panel of judges stated.

Three other food travel products were also awarded for their merits

Heather’s Helsinki, Fork in Hand food walk

The four-hour guided food walk in the centre of Helsinki focuses on Finnish food, and the culture and history behind the products. The guide also talks about the pureness and responsible nature of Finnish food. Of course, the food walk includes visits to various destinations, tasting and business stories. This product is a pioneer in the Finnish food walk category.

Herrankukkaro Oy, Wild and Close – a food journey in the Archipelago

Herrankukkaro, an old fishermen’s village in Rymättylä, Naantali, offers food journeys in the Archipelago of many stories. This product teaches participants how to gut and prepare wild-caught fish. Fish is prepared around a campfire in a beautiful archipelago setting by the sea. Herrankukkaro respects the environment, and its business activities are developed and expanded on the conditions of the surrounding nature. The company’s food range is based on local food, with fish being the main ingredient. The company focuses comprehensively on sustainability and responsibility.

Okkola Holiday Cottages, Restaurant Niinipuu – traditional pie workshop

In the pie workshop in Puumala in Southern Savonia, guests can bake pies and listen to stories of history, culture and tradition in a genuine 19th-century Finnish log-built country home. Guests can prepare Karelian, bilberry or lingonberry pies according to their preference. The making of berry pies may also include a berry-picking trip in the nearby forest.

Two honorary recognitions

Koe Meidän Tampere (Experience our Tampere) product package

Private Tampere-based businesses (Dream Hotel, restaurants Periscope, Kajo, Dining 26, Kumma, cocktail speakeasy Tiima and night club Doris) have packaged a comprehensive experience for travellers and locals. They have built six different packages that are easily available to customers.

Harriniva/Torassieppi, Lappish Foodie Experience & How to Be a Local

Lappish Foodie Experience allows travellers to prepare their own appetisers, the main course and dessert over an open flame in a hut. The menu consists of local ingredients. Different ingredients are presented naturally as part of the programme. How to Be a Local groups participate in a weekly food roulette where local food is tasted, spiced up by stories. In this way, participants learn about the local food culture. The company’s responsibility programme is based on three elements: protecting the wilderness, selling globally – acting locally, and developing traditions and wellbeing.

Awarded companies, award presenters and the panel of judges. Photo: Juha Rahkonen.

The panel of judges emphasised customer-friendliness, the use of local resources, stories and food, experiences, sustainability, cooperation, commercial merits, profitability, and diversity in sales and marketing.

The competition aims to encourage food and travel networks to develop new, locally anchored products for culinary tourism. This year, the goal was to identify pioneering businesses and communities that promote innovation in food travel and provide new culinary experiences for travellers. The goal is to support the development of experience-based food travel, find new flagship products and foster genuine cooperation. This year’s competition was the third of its kind, the previous being held in 2015 and 2017.

The competition is part of the Hungry for Finland (H4F) initiative, which is supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development). The initiative and competition are both coordinated by the Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences.

The panel of judges:

Kirsi Viljanen, Senior Specialist, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry,, +358 40 509 8986

Terhi Hook, Development Manager, Visit Finland (Business Finland),, +358 50 597 0999

Mariaana Nelimarkka, food and beer writer,, +358 50 548 9999

Päivi Töyli, Project Manager, Initiative for national food sector coordination, Brahea Centre at the University of Turku,, +358 40 189 1929

Further information: Kristiina Havas, Project Manager, Food Tourism, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences,, +358 500 688 332,

Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences trains business and service specialists, as well as studying and developing expertise and business activities in these sectors. Our fields of education are business, hotel, restaurant and tourism management, information technology, journalism, management assistant training, sports management and vocational teacher education. Our approximately 10,500 students are already building employment networks during their studies. The high-quality national and international competence of roughly 630 employees supports our students.