The Taste Saimaa network: supporting local food through cooperation

The Taste Saimaa network - Supporting local food through cooperation

27 June 2023 – Around 50 food and tourism companies have signed up to the Taste Saimaa network with the aim to highlight genuinely local and high-quality services, products and experiences in Saimaa, European Region of Gastronomy awarded 2024.

The network includes businesses from all three provinces in the Saimaa region (South Savo, South Karelia and North Karelia) that received the Taste Saimaa label for committing to support and give visibility to the local food products and cultural heritage.

“The Taste Saimaa label identifies quality products or services that are developed through local cooperation and responsible operations; use local raw materials; and emphasise the local culture. The goal is to form a multidisciplinary network of small and medium-sized operators, and offer them cooperation opportunities, versatile training and piloting of new activities,” explains Sari Kaasinen, coordinator of Saimaa, European Region of Gastronomy awarded 2024.

In its first phase, the Taste Saimaa initiative has brought together two already existing networks in the region:

  • D.O. Saimaa designation of origin, gathering products and unique taste experiences based on locally produced ingredients and complying with strict quality criteria; and
  • Karelia à la Carte culinary tourism network, including North Karelian food companies (e.g. restaurants, tourism companies, bakeries, other food processing companies and producers) who offer local food products and culinary experiences that combine the latest gastronomy trends and the rich Karelian food tradition.

All Taste Saimaa partners are collected in the Gems of Eastern Finland interactive map where they are sorted according to different categories: restaurants, activities, producers, accommodation facilities, shops, and experiences. The map provides short descriptions of each partner and direct links to their websites, as well as highlights further local attractions, routes, and unique natural and cultural sites.

The goal for 2024 is to grow the Taste Saimaa network to include at least 200 partners from the tourism, hospitality and creative industries. To that end and starting from August 2023, an online form will be made available on the Taste Saimaa website for companies to submit their applications for:

  • products or raw materials that are produced, processed and refined mainly in the Saimaa region (min. 30% degree of verifiable locality);
  • services, artworks or experiences based on the culture and traditions of Saimaa, and that are produced and implemented in the region;
  • shops whose offer includes at least 10 Taste Saimaa and/or D.O. Saimaa products (clearly displayed and marked);
  • companies in the service industry (e.g. hotels, restaurants, cafés) whose menu includes at least one dish prepared with local ingredients (clearly displayed and marked).

The Taste Saimaa Partner model has been developed in cooperation with D.O. Saimaa, the Karelia á la Carte food tourism network, Saimaa Geopark and ProAgria. The network certification and activities are managed and coordinated by the Saimaa European Region of Gastronomy 2024 project.

About the European/World Regions of Gastronomy

Candidate and awarded World/European Regions of Gastronomy, guided by IGCAT, are working together to strengthen food security through the celebration of distinctive food cultures; create employment by stimulating creativity and gastronomic innovation; nourish children and adults through culinary and cultural education; drive environmental sustainability in tourism, hospitality and agricultural sectors; support balance and sustainable tourism practices; highlight and support expertise from within rural and urban communities, creating connections and sharing good practises; and contribute to community health and well-being.


IGCAT aims to empower local communities by raising awareness of the importance to protect and promote distinct regional food, culture, arts and natural assets as part of sustainable and balanced tourism and development strategies. This is essential to safeguard our planet, health, wellness and local economies.

IGCAT is a non-profit institute established in 2012, working with regional stakeholder consortiums in the fields of gastronomy, culture, arts and tourism. It counts on the expertise of a worldwide network of experts and works in partnership with specialised intergovernmental organisations.

IGCAT founded the World/European Region of Gastronomy Award and is the official secretariat for the World/European Regions of Gastronomy Platforms. Furthermore, the Institute has developed the European Young Chef Award, the World Food Gift Challenge, the Top Websites for Foodie Travelers Award and the international Food Film Menu.