The road to environmentally conscious consumption is paved with… beer. The Finnish company NAMS was founded with one clear vision, says NAMS CMO Teemu Kanasuo: ”Producing environmentally friendly tomatoes with no compromise on the taste.”
How does beer fit into this, though? ”To be truly sustainable, we don’t want to waste anything from our tomato production. So, we have been planning to manufacture processed tomato products such as soups, sauces, and so on. We are still in a trial phase about that. Yet, it has been more than one year and a half since our tomato beer has come out.”
One of the biggest greenhouses in Finland
NAMS has been growing tomatoes in a 5-hectare greenhouse with hybrid lighting. Using both HPS and LEDs allows the company to utilize the heat of the HPS during the cold Finnish winter and LEDs during spring and summer when heating is not necessary. Initially, the greenhouse was 2.5 hectares, and when they did the 2.5 ha expansion, they started considering using some of the tomatoes for processed products. The tomato beer was one of these.
”In the area, we are located, there are a lot of craft breweries. So we thought of making a beer with our tomatoes. We supplied local breweries with our tomatoes, and we tested the response with a few batches.” A Finnish craft beer manufacturer from Pori, Beer Hunter´s, got their hands on NAMS tomato beer, and word of mouth on social media did the rest.
The story of a tomato
Teemu continues to explain that tomato beer doesn’t represent a huge business in itself for NAMS. Rather, through their tomato beer, the company wants to show loyal NAMS customers that their tomato is a guarantee of quality, regardless of the shape and form it comes.
”The tomatoes we use for such products, like the tomato beer, are not the worst, unripe green ones, quite the opposite in fact,” Teemu says. ”We use the ripest tomatoes, the ones that taste the best, but since they are too ripe, they crack, or they are too soft, so supermarkets won’t take them.”
NAMS also tells the story of this beer not only through its own channels but also together with other local breweries and beer hunters. With this branding, people would get familiar with NAMS tomatoes, making consumers understand that environmentally friendly tomatoes exist, they taste amazing, and NAMS is growing them locally.
”Our company was created 6 years ago, and right now, we are the 3rd biggest greenhouse in Finland,” Teemu says. ”We are committed to telling the story of our tomatoes, about the importance of sustainability and local production to reduce carbon emission.” NAMS can do that because they have a direct connection with retailers, allowing them to tell a unique story of the brand.
Low emissions and avoiding waste
Teemu points out that a Finnish govt body (Natural Resources Institute Finland) “LUKE,” came to measure the carbon footprint of NAMS, and they found out that the emissions were small, and yet tomatoes were of high quality. ”Historically, tomatoes have been imported from Spain, but that’s not sustainable at all. On the one hand, the soil quality in Spain is degrading (additionally, the water footprint is tremendous), and since tomatoes are grown outdoors there, the quality oftentimes leaves a lot to be desired. On the other hand, transporting them all the way here adds up to the carbon emissions of producing one Spanish tomato. With our greenhouse and methodology, we can grow high-quality tomatoes with way less carbon emissions than a Spanish tomato.”
Following their philosophy of sustainability, Teemu says that the company is looking into more ways to use the most out of their tomato plants. ”Above all, we just want to focus on avoiding waste from the greenhouse. For instance, we also produce lots of leaves when producing tomatoes, so what to do with those leaves? Can we maybe take the fiber out to make clothes, or can we somehow distil out some flavor or even color?” Only the future will tell, and who knows, maybe we’ll all be sipping a glass of fancy tomato leaves gin in a little while.