Paper-based board tubs, used for cheese, have been described as one of the most dynamic packaging types on the Russian market after a 40 per cent increase in volume between 1998 and 2002, according to market analysts Euromonitor .
Even though flexible plastic and thin wall plastic containers are still the dominant packaging types in the cheese sector, "there was a clear shift away from plastic flexible packaging towards board tubs, which are more sturdy and easy to store, although these still represent a small niche packaging format," says a Euromonitor report.
The rise to prominence of board tubs is just one example of a range of niche markets currently growing inside Russia, and often linked to new products.
Plastic pouches for sauces, dressings and condiments may be old news in some countries such as the UK, but the movement is just taking off in Russia as consumers prefer the lighter weight to plastic bottles and also the convenience of a pouch which "may simply be squeezed by hand with no need for cutlery".
Convenience is the driving force in Russian packaging development, with a trend towards faster paced lifestyles and a growing number of single-person households pushing quick, easy meals. This is complimented by an improved economic performance in Russia providing higher disposable incomes, although Euromonitor did not have figures for this.
As a result, pouches also have strong growth potential in the emerging ready meals and chilled soup sectors. At the end of 2002 international firm Masterfoods became the first company to introduce ready-to-eat soup.
Aluminium trays are another package type forecast to benefit from the rise of ready meals. The use of trays only grew by 7 per cent between 1998 and 2002 but is expected to leap up by a further 27 per cent by 2007.
Metal generally is on the way out, forecast to drop by nearly 10 per cent by 2007 due to its old-fashioned and bulky image, but niche products such as aluminium trays may help keep it afloat. Metal biscuit tins are also providing a premium outlet for the material: "Metal tins are usually decorated with attractive designs, bolstering appeal as gift products among consumers,"the report says.
Across the board, Euromonitor points out an emerging trend towards environmentally-friendly packaging and says this is likely to become more important as more Russians become aware of environmental issues. Russia's recent signing of the international Kyoto treaty on climate change has also given environmental concerns more publicity.
Moves are already being made. At the end of 2002, Swedish company Ecolean introduced a cheap, flexible plastic packaging which decomposes into chalk when exposed to heat and light.
Any environmental trends are not thought likely to affect the dominant package trends of flexible packaging, thin-wall plastic and paper-based containers which are expected to grow by 33 per cent, 28 per cent and 70 per cent respectively up to 2007.