The Kavli story dates back to 1893, when Olav Kavli acquired a licence as a self-employed businessman in Bergen. A creative and innovative entrepreneur, he invented Primula – the world’s first spreadable cheese with a long shelf life. After much trial and error, this product first saw the light of day in 1924. Its introduction put Kavli seriously on the map, and the cheese remains an important part of the product range.
In addition to a strong commitment to product development and innovation, Olav Kavli was an able salesman. One of his insights was that cheese exports from Norway were too variable in quality, quantity and packaging. He created good production routines to deliver continuity and predictability to consumers, which proved a winning strategy. He also built strong commercial relationships internationally through many business trips.
His son, Knut Kavli, became a full partner in the company in 1924. Working side by side, Olav and Knut soon started establishing plants abroad. A sales office was opened in Stockholm in 1933, and production from a Swedish plant began in 1940. Production in Denmark started as early as 1935, with the UK following the next year. When Olav died in 1958, Knut became responsible for the company’s continued operation.
Like his father, Knut Kavli was a socially responsible citizen, and resolved to ensure that the group had a long-term and socially committed owner by placing its shares in a charitable trust. He accordingly established the Kavli Trust in 1962, and this owns the Kavli group today. The trust’s statutes specify that profits from Kavli are to be donated to research, cultural and humanitarian activities.