This strong charity focus is the legacy of Kavli’s founder, Norwegian businessman Olav Kavli who created the Primula brand back in 1924.
Born in 1872 Olav grew up on a farm in the small village of Aro, near Molde on the Norwegian coast. At the age of 21, after attending business school in Bergen, he set up a business buying and selling cheese.
A keen entrepreneur with big ambitions, Olav quickly developed his range and would travel the world, passing on his enthusiasm for cheese to all he met and developing trading links in a variety of countries.
During his travels Olav realised there was a real opportunity to develop a cheese that was both easy to spread and had good keeping qualities, so upon his return he set about experimenting with new production techniques.
In 1924 he successfully launched Primula Cheese, the world’s first processed soft cheese, which he named after the Primula flowers which appeared each spring around his Norwegian home.
Primula Cheese was a huge success in Norway and in 1929 Kavli introduced the famous tube packaging for which Primula is now so well know. It was at this time Primula Cheese began being sold abroad, with the UK one of Primula’s most successful export markets.
By 1936 the British were such big fans of Primula that a factory was set up near Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, producing the cheese on UK soil for the first time, with similar factories established in Denmark and Sweden by Olav’s son, Knut Kavli.
Both Olav and Knut were philanthropists – renowned for supporting good causes both locally and internationally. When Olav Kavli sadly passed away in 1958 at the age of 86 he left the business to his son, but with no children to take over from him Knut decided to set up a charitable foundation which would be the sole owner and shareholder of the Kavli business, ensuring his father’s charitable family values would continue into the future.
In 1962 the Kavli Trust was established with a legal duty to carry on the good works of the Kavli family by donating profits from the business to research, culture and humanitarian projects.
Today Primula is still proudly produced in the North East of England, operating from its current factory in Gateshead’s Team Valley since 1962. In addition, Kavli also owns Castle MacLellan Foods, which produces exquisite Scottish pate in Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and St Helen’s Farm, producing the finest goat’s milk, yogurt and cheese in Yorkshire.
Kavli UK is part of the larger Kavli Group which has commercial operations in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland and whose sole purpose is to generate funds for the Kavli Trust.