Huhtamaki proudly bears the name of the company's founder, Mr. Heikki Huhtamäki. Young Heikki Huhtamäki, a village baker’s son, established Huhtamäki Industries in 1920 in Kokkola, Western Finland. The company soon became one of the country's largest candy manufacturers.
From its entrepreneurial beginnings, Huhtamaki diversified into other food products in the 1930s, to healthcare in the 1940s and in the three decades that followed to areas as diverse as women’s' clothing, heavy engineering, advertising and electronic components.
Huhtamaki’s shares were listed on the stock exchange in 1960. During the 1970s and 1980s Huhtamaki was a conglomerate with almost 20 unrelated businesses all operating under their own names.
With the establishment of Polarpak in 1965, packaging graduated from a supporting in-house function into a separate business line. In the late 1970s, Polarpak was already Europe's leading manufacturer of paper cups. Its name was changed into Polarcup in 1986.
In 1988, Huhtamaki set the strategic objective of becoming a world leader in one or more closely defined business areas by the year 2000. Pharmaceuticals, confectionery and packaging were all seen as good candidates. The other businesses, many of them beloved household names in Finland, were sold one by one.
Leiras, the pharmaceutical division, became the world's leading provider of long-acting contraceptive solutions. For global sales and distribution the company had to rely on much larger companies and in 1996, Leiras was sold to Schering AG, a German company.
Leaf, the confectionery division, had been created in 1983 and by the mid-1990s Leaf had become one of the world's top ten confectionery companies. It had strong regional and local positions in pastilles and chewing gum. However, pioneership in health-enhancing confectionery products such as Xylitol-sweetened chewing gum was though not enough to meet global brand-building objectives and profitability targets and so Leaf’s American operations were sold to the U.S. industry leader Hershey in 1996 and European and Asian business to the Dutch company CSM in 1999.
Consequently, packaging became the core industry in Huhtamaki's strategic journey. Packaging had posted consistent, solid progress over the years and was Huhtamaki's opportunity to lead the industry consolidation rather than follow it.
Between 1997 and 2001, Huhtamaki acquired 14 packaging companies, including the major U.S. company Sealright in 1998 and the Dutch packaging giant Van Leer in 1999. With the latter the company changed its name to Huhtamaki Van Leer. Van Leer was, however, quickly sold as Huhtamaki decided to return to its roots as a consumer packaging manufacturer.
As a pure consumer packaging specialist, it returned to its original name and started to develop Huhtamaki into a leading business-to-business brand in consumer packaging. For the first time since 1930, Huhtamaki focuses on its core capability and is trading under the same company identity all over the world.