12. May 2023

CEO of Kavli: “Olav and Knut Kavli were visionary founders”

“Olav and Knut Kavli were visionary founders. They wanted to ensure that the business would continue based on their own strong values, and they were able to see the bigger picture of how business can give back to society,” says CEO of Kavli, Kenneth Hamnes.

“It is great to see that more and more companies are taking social responsibility and giving money to good causes. But Kavli is unique in that we give away our entire profit, and have done so for 60 years,” states Hamnes.

As CEO, he is in charge of the value creation that lies behind every krone Kavli Trust can distribute.

“Everyone who works in the Kavli Group focuses on doing the best job possible. The fact that the entire company has a unique purpose creates a sense of pride that is almost tangible, and for me as a manager this is of course an additional motivation,” he says.

“Everyone wants to play a part in something bigger, and at Kavli we are able to do this every single day. This is a privilege that means a lot.”

Tears of joy

The CEO believes that the direct connection between the value creators and the purpose is particularly visible during the annual ceremony where cheques are handed out as part of the so-called employee nomination.

“This is an occasion where we fulfil the purpose of Kavli Trust in a concrete and powerful way that touches everyone. I have seen quite a few tears of joy,” he says.

The workday itself is probably quite similar to that of any CEO of a food group.

“The Board of Kavli Holding is commercial and competent, and sets just as high targets as other owners,” he points out.

“But more and more people are becoming aware that Kavli and Q-Meieriene are owned by Kavli Trust, which strengthens our brand. Those
who do not know our purpose are always very impressed when I explain where I work and how we operate,” he says.

Strikes a note with consumers

“The fact that we have a foundation as an owner, with a solid and good purpose, strikes a note with consumers. Stronger brands will over time strengthen Kavli Trust, which in turn can distribute even more money to good causes,” he reasons.

He points out that the unique ownership structure is no cushion for the group’s sustainability work.

“Our purpose is to create profit for good causes, and we shall do it in a sustainable way. This provides direction for everyone in the Kavli Group,” says Hamnes.

Read more about the projects supported by Kavli Trust in our annual reports

“The expectations of sustainability from both consumers and food chains strengthen awareness throughout the group, driving even more stringent demands on the Kavli companies’ suppliers and partners. Sustainability should permeate everything we do, not just be a topic we talk about every once in a while. Kavli has always acted responsibly and with high integrity, and that also applies here,” he states.

Recycled aluminium

Developing and improving the sustainability measures is a constantly ongoing work. One of the advances he likes to highlight is Kavli Bacon Cheese in tubes of recycled aluminium, which was launched in the Kavli Trust anniversary year.

“Recycling aluminium uses only five percent of the energy needed to make brand new aluminium,” he explains.

Kavli also works to increase knowledge among consumers that the aluminium tube can be recycled, including the one made of aluminium that has already been recycled.

“In 2022, Action for Recycling and the project ‘From tube to bicycle’ had a record turnout with thousands of Norwegian school children learning about the potential of recycling Kavli tubes,” Hamnes says proudly.

Positive pressure

He points out that today’s consumers have a completely different awareness, which means that taking social responsibility is more expected today than in the 1960s.

“People’s increased awareness creates a positive pressure from several angles,” he believes.

“Employees expect employers to act responsibly, politicians expect the population to take responsibility and the business community that trades with each other also has certain standards. All these pressures push us forward and in the right direction. Humans have adapted throughout the ages, and I believe we will be able to do so again. If everyone accepts their responsibility.”

Praises the customers

Unlike the time when Knut Kavli established Kavli Trust, today there are many business actors who hold a high bar for social responsibility.

“And fortunately, more and more people are following through on their ambitions. Personally, I think that the customers of Kavli and Q-Meieriene have taken great strides,” says Hamnes.

The ‘customers’ in this context are the grocery chains. He has no doubts:

“They make tough demands on us, but they also make ever tougher demands on themselves. The grocery chains are also such large businesses that their behaviour has a major impact on society. I cheer for them all,” he says.

In the Kavli Trust anniversary year, he likes to pay an extra tribute to the Norwegian Q farmers.

“They are always very positive, and know that our work together will be very important for us to achieve our goals. They deserve a big thank you,” he says.

Ownership bonus

Hamnes becomes engaged when he talks about how Q-Meieriene and the other Kavli companies are working hard to win the battle for consumers. He is proud of Kavli as a leading, well-respected food company with strong brands and solid positions in local markets.

“Kavli regularly asserts itself in rankings related to innovation, sustainability and brand strength. We have a good dialogue with consumers and customers, and are always looking for insight that we can turn into profitable growth,” he says.

The CEO is clear that the Kavli Group’s products should be chosen due to taste and competitive advantages.

“We have to win over consumers every time. Our ownership structure should be a bonus and an additional element. Communicating this in a smart and relevant way will be important going forward.”

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I want the Kavli companies to be more relentless in all areas, so that Kavli Trust can be even more generous!”

 EMPLOYEE: Natalie Mutaf at Kavli UK’s production site Primula Cheese in Gateshead. Foto: Kavli UK