Local owners of a bakery in the small town of Sørli, Nord-Trøndelag County, are becoming multi-millionaires after selling their Lierne Bakeri to food industry firm Rieber & Søn og Bergen. Lierne specializes in producing small packages of buttered, ready-to-eat lefse, the traditional Norwegian pasty that’s rather like a tortilla, but sweet.
Lefse is a soft, thin pastry made from potatoes but different from what’s known as lompe, which often is served around hot dogs. While lompe is fairly dry and not sweet at all, lefse is moist and usually served buttered with cinnamon and sugar.
Business newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) has reported that Lierne Bakeri enjoyed nationwide success with its ready-made packets of lefse. In 1990, the bakery had four employees and revenues of NOK 270,000. It now has 110 employees and revenues amounted to around NOK 89 million (USD 16 million) last year.
Lierne’s success attracted Rieber, which has offered an estimated NOK 133 million to take over Lierne and incorporate it into its vast production operations. The deal affects most people living in Sørli, northeast of Steinkjer and not far from the Swedish border with only 1,400 inhabitants, because nearly every family in the town has someone working at the bakery. Among them is Alf Robert Arvasli, the local mayor who also is a cattle rancher and invested personally in the bakery. “I think I’ll get between NOK 10 million and 12 million, but I don’t know exactly,” he told DN. “I really don’t have much use for the money, I have no plans for it.”
Some local residents worry that Rieber will move production out of Lierne. Its founder and main shareholder John Helge Inderdal, age 55, will stay on, though, at least until 2013 and possibly until he retires. He said he had no “crown prince” to take over and was in the process of investing NOK 45 million in the physical plant.
“The plan was to try to sell the company after the investment was in place, but then Rieber called,” Inderdal told DN. “This is the sort of thing that happens only once in a lifetime.” He said he felt he has “secured the future for myself and my daughter,” and would place the proceeds carefully.
“We have to believe that Jon Helge has done a good deal,” said Mary Nordbakk, who has worked at the bakery for the past 21 years. “We hope this will go well.”
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