From importing herring to a diversified group – the Berner family business turns 140

The story of Berner Ltd began in 1883, when the Norwegian Sören Berner began importing herring from Stavanger, Norway, to Helsinki. Today, the family business has grown into an international group, known above all for its diversity, domestic production, strong brands and social responsibility.

The Finnish family business Berner has grown from a one-man company importing herring to a diverse fifth-generation group, with different business areas serving consumers, companies of different industries and the public sector. This year, Berner Ltd is celebrating its 140th anniversary.

Berner, who already has a long track record, is still confident about the future. The company’s diverse strategy strives for sustainable growth and internationalisation for all four business areas, consumer products, healthcare and laboratories, agriculture and industry.

“Diversity has always been part of our fundamental philosophy that has protected our operations from economic fluctuations. We have never aimed for quick gains, but we have wanted to build our growth on a long-term and responsible foundation,” says Berner’s CEO Antti Korpiniemi.

Over the past couple of years, Berner has made ten acquisitions to strengthen all of its business areas. Today, in addition to Finland, Berner operates in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Baltics, employing over 800 people.

From imports to strong domestic production

Berner began its business operations with importation in 1883. In addition to herring, the company’s imports included salt, various grains and special products, such as liquorice and coffee. In the 1930s, Berner expanded its operations into products that supported agricultural trade, such as fertilisers. It was the first company to start selling crop protection products for cultivation in Finland. The year 2023 is also a jubilee for Berner’s agricultural business as it celebrates its 90th anniversary.

The company is still owned by the family of its founder, Norwegian Sören Berner.

“A family business is a resource for as long as the family works together for a common goal, and fortunately this has always been the case for us,” says Hannes Berner, Chairman of the Board of Berner Ltd.

In the 1950s, Berner started its own production at the company’s plant in Herttoniemi, Helsinki. Berner’s first in-house product was the XZ hair oil treatment, which gradually expanded into a full range of products.

Today, Herttoniemi is home to Berner’s headquarters and the company’s second manufacturing plant for consumer products. The Heinävesi plants produce hygiene and cosmetics products, ethanol-based products and vinegars. In Finland, Berner also has production in Kouvola, Kokemäki, Lapua, Kaipiainen, Mietoinen and Ylöjärvi, where fertilisers, potato starch, starch-based binders and adhesives, magnesium products and protective products are manufactured.


Responsibility for the people and tomorrow

The importance of domestic production is also emphasised in Berner’s social responsibility. In Heinävesi, for example, Berner is the biggest private employer in the municipality with 60 employees.

“We have always invested in a good HR policy. This has been a conscious choice for us, as we want to be a long-term and responsible employer for our employees,” says Hannes Berner.

This approach was also evident in the early days of the group. Berner started systematically developing employee well-being in the 1940s, when it began to progressively pay dividends to its employees and launched occupational healthcare and a dental care services.

Today, Berner’s responsibility work also strongly reflects the sustainability of products, the environment and the climate. Renewable energy, circular raw materials, recycled packaging materials and a commitment to science-based climate targets are all part of the Group’s sustainability work. In 2022, Berner was rewarded the highest Platinum-level rating in the EcoVadis sustainability assessment and is committed to the constant development of its sustainability.

“We work to ensure well-being and good living for all of us – also 100 years from now. That is why sustainability is at the heart of everything we do,” says CEO Antti Korpiniemi.