Reeta Kivelä is a Finnish entrepreneur with a PhD in food science and is the co-developer of Pulled Oats, an oat-based plant protein product. She is the Chief Technology Officer at Gold&Green Foods Ltd, the producer of Pulled Oats. In 2017 she won Technology Academy Finland’s CTO of the Year award. Kivelä lives in Helsinki with her family, and only eats meat if she really has to.
Reetta, you are one of the developers of Pulled Oats. What are Pulled Oats?
Pulled Oats are a high-protein food prepared from Finnish oats, broad beans and peas. They’re the perfect source of protein, containing all the amino acids a person needs. Pulled Oats are a bit like eggs or meat, but are a healthier and more environmentally friendly option.
How did Pulled Oats come about?
The other developer of the product, our company’s Managing Director Maija Itkonen, wanted to begin developing from Finnish oats something that would replace meat in cooking. She wanted to develop so-called oat meat. Because I specialise in the study of oats myself, she suggested the idea to me. At first however I wasn’t too keen on it, because I mostly associated oats with oatmeal breads and porridge. But gradually the idea began to take shape, and we experimented with different structures for the product in our home kitchens. At some point in the development work broad beans entered the picture, because when it comes to both nutritional value and taste they’re a perfect match for oats. Also, they can be grown organically using the crop rotation method.
Where did the name Pulled Oats come from?
It comes from the structure of the product, which is reminiscent of pulled pork. The meat-like texture comes from the combination of beans and oats.
Since the launch of the product, Pulled Oats have been hugely popular in Finland. In places the supply has not been able to meet the demand. What do you think explains this popularity?
Many people would like to eat more healthily, but given the fast pace of everyday life healthy food must also be convenient. On top of that, many also want to be more ecologically responsible in what they eat. And in recent years in Finland there has been a lot of discussion about the ethical and environmental problems of intensively farmed meat. Pulled Oats make it easy to cut down on meat consumption by making vegetarian options more accessible. As well as that I believe that the honesty of this product appeals to people. So as the producer of this product, it’s wonderful in a way to sell something that the consumer completely understands. Its raw ingredients are already well known, and it’s easy to be open in promoting it because there’s nothing to hide.
What makes oats so healthy?
Of all the grain plants, oats have the most health benefits, and these are due to the oat fibre, beta-glucan. It lowers cholesterol, making it healthy for the circulatory system. And it keeps blood sugar levels in balance and promotes the wellbeing of the stomach. The fats in oats are also healthy. There has been much research on oats, and more is being learned all the time. At the moment there’s a lot of interest on the antioxidants contained in oats. We Finns have always known that oats will take you a long way!
Where can one try Pulled Oats?
They’re available in several restaurants in Helsinki. The entire street food menu of the Oatz restaurant in the K6 food market in Kamppi Shopping Centre is centred on Pulled Oats. The Fazer cafés and Paulig’s corner café in the Kluuvi Shopping Centre currently sell sandwiches with Pulled Oats. And of course Finnish supermarkets such as Prismas, K-Markets, and the specialist food store Anton & Anton also sell Pulled Oats whenever they’re available. Pulled Oats are still available only in Finland, but in the future they will certainly be available in the rest of Europe too.
Is there something about Helsinki that inspires you in your work?
Many things. There would be no such thing as Pulled Oats if I hadn’t moved from my home region to Helsinki. Helsinki has a good atmosphere – for a capital city it’s got a nice small-town feel. There are plenty of people here, but still plenty of space. Helsinki is also very beautiful. For example, my cycling route to work, past Sibelius Park and along the Hietalahti shoreline is the perfect landscape.
And does the creator of Pulled Oats still eat them?
Not so much at the moment, because they’re so hard to get. I can’t just walk in to the factory and take them. But of course the whole family does eat them, every week.
Read more on Pulled Oats and try the recipes at www.goldandgreenfoods.com