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Start-ups in the Turku Region | A walk and talk with Matti from The Paper Lid Company

Matti Salonoja’s goal is to get rid of plastic, disposable lids for coffee cups and other drinks. This is no longer just a dream, as The Paper Lid Company can produce 70,000 ecological lids per hour and almost the entire production is already exported to the global markets. What is going on in the industrial hall in Masku?

  • About the company: The Paper Lid Company has brought to the market a plastic-free and competitively priced cardboard lid for take away mugs. As much as 98% of the production is exported.
  • Founded: in 2021
  • Team: Company founder and two employees
  • Location of the office: Masku business center, 15 minutes from the center of Turku.
  • Latest achievement: The world’s first producer of ecological and cost-effective take away cup lids.
  • Random fact: Matti, the founder of the company, has worked hard to get to the top of his field without commercial training; hard work and continuous learning are the basis of his success.
PHOTO 1. Employee Joni Kosonen (left) and founder Matti, who states that Joni must never change his job. © Susanna Lahtinen / CYF Digital

The pouring rain hits the car window as I drive towards Masku and production facilities of The Paper Lid Company. The journey from Turku to the Masku Business Center takes only about 15 minutes. There are industrial halls behind the mall, and I’m looking for the right building. I meet the company’s founder Matti Salonoja and two of his employees. I came to find out, of course over a cup of coffee, how the company has become the top player of its industry in the world.

Why did you choose Masku for our meeting place?

Masku is a municipality of slightly less than 10,000 inhabitants. It recently made it into the list of 30 most vibrant municipalities in Finland in WSP Finland’s extensive vitality study. Matti reveals that Masku was selected as the company’s headquarters partly by chance. They were looking for premises and from Masku he found just the right and reasonably priced production space.

“This space is excellent because it can be easily expanded. We just knocked down one wall for the new machines, and more walls can follow. If a completely new facility would be needed, I believe Masku municipality will help to find the right lot and deal with building permits.”

Masku’s high ranking in the vitality measurement is no accident. The company’s premises have been visited by the mayor and manager responsible of the business and vitality. They reminded that their duty is to help locals thrive. Matti appreciates this kind of gestures, and he knows who to call, if necessary.

There has been enough flexibility in private life as well. Matti’s child has had a day care placement in Masku, even though the family lives in the neighboring municipality, Rusko. According to Matti, smaller municipalities genuinely think of the best interests of both residents and entrepreneurs.

“In a smaller municipality, entrepreneurs are seen as people and things run smoothly.”

In addition to people-oriented approach, Matti also wants to emphasize the importance of Masku’s excellent location and transport connections. The company sends a lot of containers to the world markets and smooth connection to the port of Rauma is crucial for business. It is a short distance to everywhere and Matti can drive home to Rusko in just over 10 minutes.

PHOTO 2. Masku is logistically a brilliant place for international business. Containers travel conveniently along the highway to the port. © Veera Niemi / CYF Digital

What does the Turku Region offer for growth-oriented companies and experts?

Masku is a part of the wider Turku Business Region, where companies are supported by regional support services. Turku Science Park Ltd offers advice to start-up companies and various acceleration programs to companies aiming for international markets with a rapid growth plans.

The Paper Lid Company has not used these services, as Matti have already had more than a decade of entrepreneurial experience and established network. However, he greatly appreciates that these services are available to those entrepreneurs that are at the beginning of their entrepreneurial career. At the start of their journey, the company received investment support for the equipment procurement from the local ELY center.

“In the beginning, the ELY Center’s investment support, which promotes sustainable development, helped us to start the business.”

For entrepreneurs and employees, Turku Region is in many ways a great place to live. Both Matti, who lives in Rusko, and Joni living in Masku, enjoy their lives in smaller municipalities with peaceful surroundings. At the same time, all services are a short distance away and, for example, it has taken only a week to book a basic appointment to a dentist. This wouldn’t be possible in bigger cities.

What does The Paper Lid Company do?

Currently, single-use plastic products are being banned rapidly, and the EU has already banned, among other things, plastic single-use cutlery, and straws. Matti believes this trend will soon follow the lids of take away cups. Hence, this is an excellent time to build a brand in the market. In the near future most probably all companies have to look for alternatives to plastic.

PHOTO 3. The demand for ecological lids from The Paper Lid Company is growing enormously.  © Susanna Lahtinen / CYF Digital

Matti has been in the industry for a long time, as his other company has been making disposable cups for more than 10 years. Years ago, Matti was involved in the development of Kotka Mills’ ecological cups, and at that time the idea of ecological lids came into place. Thanks to the existing global network, the marketing of the new product has been efficient. Customers have also found The Paper Lid Company by themselves, because there are not many alternatives to plastic lids on the market.

“At the moment, the alternative is a disposable cover made of a material, familiar from egg cells, and the price is 10 cents/piece. The price of the plastic lid is 2.5 cents, and our product is 3.5 cents. In addition, our cover can be used 50 times. So, we are already a really cost-effective alternative.”

“Soon we can make over a million ecological take away cup lids in a day!”

The Paper Lid Company’s lids are made from recycled cardboard, coated with a so-called water dispersion that is completely biodegradable. It is recommended to recycle the cover with paper waste. Printable covers are also coming to the market soon. This expands the possibilities even further.

Nothing tells more about the success than the familiar names such as Pepsi, McDonalds, the gas station chain Circle K and Metsä Board, Hesburger and Kespro from Finland. These are all either their customers or partners in product development. In addition, the numbers sound massive considering that production has only been running for less than a year. The growth goals are ambitious and almost all production is, and will be, exported abroad.

“We have been making covers for about 10 months now and in that time about 30 million units. Soon we will have 8 new production lines in addition to the current four. After this, over a million covers can be made per day.”

What does the entrepreneur, doing international business, thinks about his current location?

“We ended up in Masku by chance, but now there is no reason to leave.”

The story: Susanna Lahtinen / CYF Digital