September 28, 2018
At the end of July, Finnish egg producer Munax Oy was granted a Europe-wide patent for Laitilan Kanatarha’s Butter & Egg Spread (Munavoi). Kolster, an IP expert, was involved in the process from the very beginning.
The patent expert is particularly delighted with the Butter & Egg Spread patent.
"This is an entirely new opportunity to raise the profile of foodstuffs," says Anu Taivainen, a patent attorney at Kolster, who is delighted with the European Patent Office’s positive decision.
It is the shelf life and spreadable nature of the patented Butter & Egg Spread that makes it special: the product can be stored unopened for 28 days and be spread immediately. Despite this, there are no preservatives: just butter, eggs and salt. Munax is the only Finnish egg producer to have developed and refined eggs to this extent.
"The law defines how much fat must be present for a foodstuff to be called butter and egg spread. Plenty of real butter must be used. The greatest challenge was giving the spread a good shelf life while keeping it spreadable," explains Emma Mäkelä, a Quality Manager at Munax.
The history of butter and egg spread dates back to the days of rationing and the need to save butter. The fact that many commercial kitchens have begun using the product proves that it works as stated. Munax has also been granted the Key Flag Symbol confirming the spread’s Finnish origin.
A business secret lies at the heart
The shelf life of Laitilan Kanatarha’s Butter & Egg Spread is in a class of its own. The secret lies in the preparation prior to using high-pressure technology to package the product. High pressure processing is a preservative technique that can be used to destroy pathogens and other microbes capable of multiplying in the packaged foodstuff. This is done using pressure treatment at room temperature or slightly higher.
Laitilan Kanatarha’s Butter & Egg Spread is processed prior to this, using a method that remains a commercial secret.
"We were already considering a patent application during the product development stage. We wanted to protect our business secret in particular – the spread processing method prior to high-pressure processing," says Mäkelä.
Kolster as a partner
Kolster was chosen as a partner for the patenting process: Anu Taivainen, a patent attorney at Kolster, was involved from the beginning.
To obtain the patent, Taivainen wrote a highly detailed description of the invention and envisioned alternative uses for the product.
"It was a long process. The application had to be fine-tuned several times to make it perfect," Emma Mäkelä recalls.
Taivainen and Mäkelä praise the close cooperation between companies. Janne Torikka, the CEO of Munax and Jukka Kaitaranta, a food consultant hired by the company, were involved in addition to the duo.
“Not many patents tend to be sought for food. Such products tend to be regarded as self-evident and manufacturable by anyone. However, Laitilan Kanatarha’s Butter & Egg Spread can be produced using an industrial process and is a genuinely innovative food product," says Anu Taivainen.
The Butter & Egg Spread has been on the shelves since 2015. The patent application drawn up by Taivainen was initiated by the European Patent Office in 2016. The decision to grant the patent was received in late July 2018. Thanks to its European patent, Munax can now choose the countries in which it wants to market its product.
"We have had discussions with a few European countries about exporting Butter & Egg Spread to their markets," says Emma Mäkelä.