Russian chocolate, beer and baby food companies aim to conquer Asia

Russian chocolate is now being exported to Asia.

Russian chocolate is now being exported to Asia.

Elena Pochetova
When the Russian currency began depreciating two years ago, foreign tourists started to spend more on local food products. A cheaper ruble has also made it profitable for Russian food manufacturers to export their products to Asian countries.

Every time Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Russia, he asks for some Russian ice cream. As a result of this craving, Russian President Vladimir Putin presented a whole box of ice cream to his Chinese counterpart at the G20 summit, which was held in Hangzhou on Sept. 4-5. 

Chinese tourists share their leader’s love for Russian ice cream so much that there are rumors that China is planning to build its own Russian ice cream factory. Consumers from across Asia are increasingly buying Russian food products thanks to a recent growth in exports from Russia.

Chocolate

Alyonka, Babaevsky and Rossyia chocolate bars, which are popular among tourists, are now being exported to Asia.

“Alyonka is the most popular brand of chocolate that is being sold in China, but Babaevsky and Vdohnovenie chocolate bars are also becoming popular,” says Denis Usalev, marketing manager of Uniconf, which owns all three brands, and is the largest confectionery holding in Eastern Europe.

He adds that sales of Alyonka grew six-fold year-over-year in China in 2015 and the company expects to see even more growth in 2016. Chinese consumers can buy Russian chocolate through ecommerce platforms as well as in local shops.

Russian companies are also looking beyond China, and are obtaining Halal certification to compete in Muslim countries in Asia.

Waffles and biscuits

The Russian confectionary industry is developing new products specifically for the Asian market to cater to local tastes.

Korovka waffles with milk and chocolate fillings is our main driver of sales in China,” says Usalev. “Also around 50 per cent of Alenka biscuits are exported to China.”

The Jubilee sugar cookies brand was launched in early 1913 and gradually became very popular in Russia. In 2007, Mondelēz International Inc acquired the brand and renamed it to belVita Breakfast. In 2015 belVita Breakfast biscuits were introduced in China and Indonesia . The company has become a global breakfast icon, with sales growing at about 20 per cent annually over the last few years. 

Healthy snack bars

The organic food market segment has been growing rapidly for years. In 2015, Take a Bite was launched in Hong Kong, China and Singapore. The Russian company relied almost exclusively on retail sales in local super markets, but today buyers can purchase Take a Bite from the TMALL online store.

Another Russian healthy food brand ECO botanica, which is owned by Uniconf, is also looking to tap into the Asian market. 

“Sales in China grew tenfold in the first nine months of this years,” says Usalev. Next month we will launch the ECO Botanica store on the Alibaba platform.” 

Baby food 

The leader in the baby food market in Russia, Frutonyanya has also entered the Chinese food market. 

“We’ve already received two 40-feet containers of Frutonyanya products and are now waiting for the third one,” says Artem Zhdanov, co-founder and marketing director of UChina, which is helping the Russian baby food company enter the Chinese market.

“The first consignment went to our Chinese partners, distributers, trade platforms and a food exhibition to enhance brand recognition and to promote the brand name.” 

The company has more than 200 products including fruit drinks, jellies, desserts, fruit puree, milk and milkshakes. It will launch a separate line for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.

Beer

Baltika, a favorite of former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, became the first Russian beer to be exported to Asia. It is now available in Vietnam and Malaysia.

The Russian beer brewer, Ochakovo established licensed production in Japan in 2016. Since July 2016, the company has been supplying three types of canned beer. Ochakovo has also launched beer exports to China.

Read more: Russia looks to flood Asia with soya, wheat and fish

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