Russians demand more eco-foods

Related tags Food Sustainable agriculture

Demand for ecologically clean food products has risen by a fifth in
Russia over the last five years despite consumer distrust of food
labels and the lack of legislative controls on ecological
production, reports Angela Drujinina.

In 2004, 57,4 per cent of Moscow citizens were ready to purchase ecologically clean products, according to research group Komkon done last year.

The figure is higher among richer consumers, reaching almost 69 per cent, though even a third those on lower incomes say they would buy such products.

Svetlana Olishanskaya, êîìêîN projects manager, said: "Many consumers pay attention to whether or not the products they purchase are ecologically clean.

"Now we have all the grounds to argue that a standard for ecologically clean products should be formed, and, consequently, that there is potential for development of this market segment."

At the moment Russia does not have a specific market for ecologically clean products because there is no legal definition or legislation covering the term. This legislative base would be needed to regulate relationships between ecological farming and manufacture as well as create a certification system, forms and methods for controlling manufacture and labelling.

Mihail Mischenko, manager of consultant agency CVS, said most manufacturers understood the rising demand for healthy and ecologically clean food, driven by "increases in city populations, invention and implementation of food production technologies.

"A poll, performed by CVS Consulting in August 2004, showed that 48 per cent of the questioned companies label their products as 'ecologically clean'.

"But, with all this going on, there is no legal definition of ecologically clean products, nor there is a system of technical regulations and national standards for ecological agriculture and manufacturing of ecologically clean products. This is a serious impediment for the development of a domestic market for ecologically clean products,"​ said Mischenko.

However, another problem is the fact that many Russian consumers have learnt to be suspicious of food labels, especially as the number of fraudulent food products continues to rise.

Suppliers and retailers, trying to satisfy the demand, currently import and sell foodstuff labelled 'eco' or 'organic food', which comply with the ecological standards adopted in EU countries and in US.

But the label 'organic food' is almost unknown to the Russian consumer. And the huge amount of information printed on domestic food packages can confuse and even mislead consumers, decreasing the level of trust in information, according to ñVS.

Both CVS and Komkon have said they will now work together on a new project to promote the use of ecologically clean foods in Russia. The project will be carried out in the build up to the second international conference on 'ecologically clean products in Russia', which will take place on 20-21 September in Moscow.

The popularity of enriched dairy products containing the word 'bio' on packs is an indication of market potential for ecologically clean products in Russia.

Research group ACNielsen​ said about 96 per cent of enriched kefir sales come from products labelled as 'bio'. Sales of these products increased by 18.8 per cent in volume and 22.5 per cent in value from April 2003 to May 2004. Enriched kefir market share increased from 9 per cent to 10.6 per cent in one year.

Foreign firms have already begun staking their claims on Russia's organic and ecologically clean products. This year, French companies Fauchon and Hediard will open shops in Moscow selling natural products, while German chain Grunwald also recently announced the opening of two shops in Russia's capital city.

So far, the only domestic shop selling solely organic food is Red pumpkin. The assortment is rich - encompassing 2000 products - and its turnover is about RUB8m (almost ˆ230,000).

Related topics Market Trends

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