Monica Chia of Karimix concludes our reports on Food From Britain's latest trade development visit to Russia. Karmix are producers of ethnic and basic store cupboard essentials.

Russia has always been a curious market and I jumped at the chance to learn more when FFB announced a TDV programme. It was an opportunity to understand better the terms and conditions from a distributor who has been asking me for a listing over the last two years. I found this trip to be most informative and constructive although I have yet to decide if it will be productive.

Monday 15 September

The journey from Moscow airport to our hotel, at the opposite side of the city, was much longer than expect and I will never again complain about the London traffic! Promise! Having heard so much contradiction about Russian food, we had a lovely Uzbekistan cuisine on our first night.

Tuesday 16 September

Today we visited Bekhette, a local supermarket which has large deli presence, followed by 7 Continents, a large premium supermarket chain. Here they have a small listing of ethnic and spicy sauces from Blue Dragon and Mama Africa along with the Japanese range of soy sauces from Kikkoman.

From here we went to Tvoy Dom a large department store with a huge supermarket section. This supermarket had a wide selection of imported products, all in attractive packaging with a large selection of confectionaries, cakes and biscuits. There is a small selection of spicy sauces from Tobasco and a range from a local brand. I have never seen such large bottles of Tobasco, 1 litre size bottles, so can only presume The Russian like spicy food.

The Auchan branch we visited is very much a no frills discount store. Prices are cheap with offers presented on pallets in the middle of the aisle or at the end of the rows. There is a very small selection of ethnic range with near empty shelves. Japanese ingredients must be most in demand as I noticed a range of Japanese soy and seasoning being produced or packed locally. All other ethnic products are imported. The only Indian range listing is Rajah with a couple of varieties of Mango chutneys and a generic “mild curry sauce”.

Azubuka Vkusa is another premium high end deli/supermarket. They import products and are selective. There is a large deli with a good variety of ready meals as well as in the freezer section, mostly Italian cuisine.

The ethnic sector is barely present in Moscow.  Japanese cuisine is widely available and often on the same menu as local dishes. So it’s no surprise to see Kikkoman range of soy sauce widely distributed although a very small presence.

Very interestingly, we stopped by an outdoor market where it still accounts for about 30% of the spend on food. Each store/outlet specialises in a type of grocery, e.g. sauces, canned food; beer and wine; fish and fish roe; a bakery, butchers, coffee and tea and so on. I was amazed at the wide range of brands both local and imported that are available but not so much in varieties. Prices are very comparable to Auchan.

The much awaited part of this trip is the Embassy reception which was very well organised and it was shame that not more attended although many were invited, apparently the bad traffic dissuaded some from turning up. This was the only time we had a showcase of our products. It was good to speak to the some distributors and agents about the exorbitant listing fee demanded by the supermarkets, which apparently only have a mark-up profit of 10 to 35%.

Wednesday 17 September

Another early start, too early for some who shall remain nameless, with only a few hours sleep! Our first stop was a marketing presentation by RED Management Services, who have been accompanying us throughout this trip. A most informative talk and it was interesting to see how the overall Russian market was divided up with highest demands and expenditure leading to spend from Moscow and followed by St Petersburg but by a quite a difference. A representative from a distributor and a premium chain came by to tell us more about their structure and business terms and conditions.

After lunch we took a much-needed walk to Red Square and saw the Kremlin, St Basil Cathedral, Kazan Cathedral and GUM department Store. GUM is Sloane Street and Regent’s Street under one roof.

St Basil Catherdral was much smaller than I imagined it to be and the Red Square, whilst vast, was crowded with tourists nowadays with the odd wedding couple having their photographs taken We then adjourned to the railway station for our train journey to St Petersburg and said goodbye to a few whose journey ended in Moscow.

Thursday 18 September
St Petersburg is more picturesque than Moscow with waterways similar to Venice. Our presentation by the local and leading distributor Octava was interesting. Of all the guest speakers, he was most interested in what we presented and I was impressed that he did much research on our little group.

After this short presentation we adjourned to visit Land, a local premium supermarket chain which is very much like Waitrose. It has a good atmosphere and was busy at 11am on a Thursday morning. Here there is a good selection of ethnic products, in fact the largest presence in all the supermarkets we visited.

Lenta, a hypermarket, was next and it was similar to Auchan discount store.

Overall, I noticed that promotions are not displayed loudly with POS but instead with presence in volume on a pallet. Promotional items are printed out on leaflets and distributed. In some supermarket the products on promotion are displayed subtly with a different coloured price tag.

Read part one

Read part two