Food and beverage production is the largest industry in Estonia by production volume. It is the main activity for about 400 companies, employing 13,400 people. Local producers have been able to maintain the leading position in Estonia while also expanding to foreign markets. Export makes up about 1/3 of the total production.
Geographically, the companies are spread all over the country. Dairy is the most important sub-sector. Most dairy products are sold domestically while 38% are exported (with Russia as the main market). Finnish-owned Valio Eesti AS is the leading dairy company, which produces cheese in Võru and milk in Tartumaa. Tere AS is another leading dairy, making more than 150 high quality products. The local-capital owned company has production sites all over Estonia, and exports accounted for nearly 40% of its sales in 2010.
AS Rakvere Lihakombinaat, the largest meat producer in the Baltics, is located in Lääne-Virumaa. The Rakvere meat factory as well as the leading poultry producer AS Tallegg are both owned by northern European leading food company HKScan. The largest bakery producer is Tallinn-based AS Leibur, which belongs to the Vaasan Group of Finland. The largest fish processor is Harjumaa-based AS Paljassaare Kalatööstus, owned by the Lithuanian Vičiūnai Group. Paljassaare fish processor is a strong exporter, selling 90% of its products abroad.
The largest beverage producers are Harjumaa-based AS Saku Õlletehas, owned by Carlsberg Group, and Tartu-based AS A le Coq, owned by Finnish Olvi OY (http://www.olvi.fi/). The most popular confectionary is AS Kalev, recently bought by Norwegian Orkla Group.
Quite a large number of small producers are active in the market, and many of those offer healthy and ecological products. Muesli producer Budget OÜ started its activities as a student company in 2009 and is now selling its breakfast and snack products in major Estonian retail chains as well as in the Horeca sector. Southern Estonia-based and Estonian-capital owned buckthorn juice producer Astelpajutooted OÜ has also made a breakthrough to local retail stores all over the country.
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