In today's blog, we are so excited to share our interview with the siblings Tara and Wiia Nyman, the owners and founders of Kuuma Helsinki. Tara was the first to start working in cafes and eventually Wiia, her sister, came along. Before KUUMA, Tara worked as a dancer and switched among other jobs. There came an opportunity in which Tara was offered a venue and that was also the turning point where she decided to run a coffee shop of her own.
At first, she planned to build KUUMA as a pop-up café with a limited amount of products including coffees and pastries while other items on the menu - like avocado toast – were added later as the café expanded.
Sharing with us, Wiia mentioned the experience working in an advertising agency for four years since she was 18 years old before her sister, Tara, invited her to join KUUMA. Wiia has always strived for changes, hence she immediately accepted the invitation and established a company with Tara. Unlike Tara who has worked in a café and has been familiar with the operation in a coffee shop, Wiia had to learn how to work in a café along the way from her sister by doing and slowly getting the hang of running a café. Wiia believed there are certain obstacles that they had to overcome, but it is fun to be an entrepreneur in Finland.
Did you always agree on the values you have now?
They both agree that it has always been important to consume and utilize local products as much as possible. The siblings share that this option is not the most affordable one but quality worth. Tara and Wiia considered what is served at the cafe are what we usually have at home, both quality-wise and price-wise. Buying honey that is made locally to be used in the café is one of the examples being brought up. Thus, this is believed to be a way of letting the customers know that they are the first priority when it comes to the healthy and high-quality foods and drinks ingredients KUUMA will serve to them. Although it is inevitable that the restaurant industry is disposing of a lot of plastic packaging and rubbish, at Kuuma the two sisters Tara and Wiia always shift their focus towards a more balanced, healthier and more sustainable food serving to customers. From their point of view, healthy foods do not necessarily relate to more rubbish disposal. On the contrary, when food is good for the planet, it is also good for people and vice versa. What is left for the chef to do is to make the food tasty for their gourmets.
“Health and environment are so connected, and you can’t just think about one unit. When it’s good for the planet, it’s good for the people and vice versa. We want to make healthy food, but it also must be tasty!” - Tara
The biggest stress for the restaurant industry in the future in your opinion?
Besides the consideration with regards to balancing nutrition value and sustainability, Tara and Wiia believe that in the future, the restaurant business would need to deal with some painful pressures. One of which is keeping an acceptable amount of food being thrown away. In the future, it would be better if restaurants are preferably preparing and selling out enough food instead of throwing away the leftovers. As for what Kuuma is applying at the moment, Tara and Wiia prefer the food “as long as the stock last and sold out” to over-buying ingredients and end up throwing them away. Moreover, the rapid shifting of preference from having food at the restaurant to taking away to enjoy at home leads to the need for more packaging. Though it is a good thing that consumers and restaurants nowadays take into account how sustainably the restaurant wraps their food and uses environmental-friendly packages, we are still making a lot of trashes from preparing and packaging the food. Therefore, it is critical to look for a way to reduce the trash for sustainability reasons while running a restaurant.
“The amount of food in the restaurant industry that gets thrown away is CRAZY.” - Tara
Innovations are coming – Do you think it is more important to find more innovations that reduce food waste and carbon footprint – or is it more important to create lab curated meat or protein made from solar?
According to Tara, it could be more important to find innovations that help reduce food waste and carbon footprint. However, it is possible to develop such innovations at the same time by creating lab curated meat or protein made from solar.
Do you think lab-produced meat could become a thing?
"Yeah, definitely I could see stores are adopting lab-produced meat to sell to customers." - said Wiia. Regarding lab-produced meat, Wiia can see a future that stores selling these types of meat. However, Wiia considers 3D-printed food possible but not in 10 years. This innovation can be a good stuff and they are nutritious but in her opinion, people are supposed to eat something grown from the ground.
How would you describe sustainable eating?
Wiia shared her point of view on one of the big problems they are facing is to assure a no-waste commitment. They would not hesitate to adopt any possible way to reuse the waste, they would even try applying sustainable eating to the whole concept of Kuuma by using recycled materials for furniture and decorations. What’s interesting is that they have never tried to force themselves into this concept. Specifically, all ideas just came naturally based on their own values and beliefs. They simply think to treat others how they would want to treat themselves.
The food industry is changing – Gen Z is more demanding?
The industry and people’s mindsets have changed a lot especially among young people in Helsinki. It is recognizable that they are really interested in what they put in their mouth. For example, they would prefer to have their own cups rather than takeaway cups, to ask the origin of the food to know whether it is local food, seasonal food, they also pay attention to the waste disposed during the production process. Vegan eating is adopted widely among people nowadays, which is proven through the fact that 90% of customers have chosen vegan milk instead, which was not the case 4 years back in time. Tara and Wiia also saw that many of their regular customers have changed their diets towards vegan and sustainable.
“Like I said, we have a lot of locals, and they come every day. But they don’t order what they do like, the basics, “the usual”. And even in that case, we can see that the usual has moved to prefered vegan.” – Wiia
What is your opinion on dairy products and eating less meat?
Wiia does not judge any kind of eating habits, she can consume dairy products or eat a fish that she catches from her fishing activity. However, she believes that consuming less meat causing no harm but for good purposes, going vegan or vegetarian or at least a shifting mindset towards the habits will lead the consumers to know where the products coming from instead of going for mass production and eating less meat could definitely have an impact on climate change.
What do you think big Finnish companies should do in the food industry?
"It is important for companies to be transparent and truly stand behind your values." - says Wiia. She does not agree that a supermarket values green but then they have a fully displayed shelf for sika-nauta jauheliha (pork n beef ground meat) for 2 euros. It is important to be accountable and do what they promised instead of following the trends by just marketing and advertising.
Do you think that Gen Z is being really active on sustainable eating?
Gen Z is definitely really active and raising their voices to know clearly about the origin of the food they are consuming. So Wiia thinks that it is crucial for schools to talk about educating sustainable and eating and more nutritious local healthy and variety of food. School catering should also improve the taste of vegan options in their meal as well as raising the number of vegan options to create the opportunity for Gen Z to pursue sustainable eating. There could even be only-vegan-option -days at schools.
That's it for the amazing interview this time with these power sisters. We are thankful that the siblings Tara and Wiia for their time and for sharing their perspectives with The Lab. Stay tuned with us @thelabinnovation for more exciting interviews coming!