International horizons: rapid tests and Finnishness

Internationalisation is the buzzword of the 1960s in the Finnish pharmaceutical industry, with pharmaceutical plants embarking upon exporting. Orion is hesitant and eventually becomes the last pharmaceutical plant in Finland to venture out into global markets. However, after the initial decision, matters progress at an incredible pace.

The first step is the Uricult rapid test. Introduced in the late 1960s and intended for diagnosing urinary tract infections, the preparation is a result of Orion’s own development operations. In 1970, it is already exported to practically all Western European countries. Three years later, the product is being exported to around 40 countries, from the United States to South Africa and New Zealand.

In its marketing in Finland, Orion has focused on its reliability and Finnish origin. Now the company decides to apply the same approach internationally. “In addition to information about Orion and its products, the packets contain colourful leaflets about Finland. This is very important, as many people in Central Europe – not to mention Libya, Taiwan and Mozambique –still think that polar bears roam the streets of Finnish cities and towns. One of the prerequisites for successful export operations is to spread information about a distant country with a rich cultural heritage, as well as pharmaceuticals you can trust,” writes Pilleri magazine in 1970.

Uricult also increases the appeal of other products, such as the Gravitest pregnancy test.  Orion decides to invest strongly in exporting and appoints its first export manager in 1974, albeit part-time. The investment pays off, as Orion signs a major agreement with the Soviet Union a year later. The Soviet Union remains its main trading partner for a long time. In 1984, Orion represents nearly 50 per cent of Finnish pharmaceutical exports.

Pictured here is a batch of goods destined for Latakia in Syria. The goods are being loaded by Auvo Heinonen and Raimo Sundström.