Investment in a new modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) line will help Russian meat processor Atiashevsky to offer products of a higher quality and a longer shelf life to its major customers - the latest move by a company which has already decided that a quality focus offers the best opportunities for growth, writes Angela Drujinina.Now widely used by companies across the rest of Europe, MAP is still a relatively new concept in Russia, not least because replacing traditional vacuum packaging lines requires substantial investment.
The MAP system replaces the air in the food packaging with a mixture of gases specifically selected to preserve the product inside the pack - and its nutritional qualities - for a longer period.
For Atiashevsky, the investment will enable it to expand its range of products far more rapidly.
"We are now able to move into a new segment of the meat market where we have previously not been active," the company's spokesperson Olga Levina told CEE-foodindustry.com. "We see great potential in the chilled fresh meat market as a result of the introduction of MAP. Our main customers are upmarket foodservice and other horeca operators, who require high quality fresh meat with a shelf life which is longer than that for standard chilled or frozen products.
"We can now supply top quality meat with a shelf life of up to 20 days, giving us an advantage over our competitors and offering a more cost effective service to our main customers."
According to the company, a number of restaurants in Nizhny Novgorod and Samara have already agreed to buy MAP-packed meat from Atiashevsky.
But Levina claimed that Atiashevsky also has another advantage over its rivals - the meat sold in MAP will be 100 per cent Russian-produced, one of the few companies offering local products at a quality level usually reserved for foreign brands.
"The quality of our raw materials gives us our competitive advantage and the fact that we control every stage of the process from slaughtering to processing allows us to ensure consistent quality," said Levina.
She added that Atiashevsky was one of the few Russian meat processors with its own veterinary service, a further quality control mechanism. The company declined to disclose the amount of the investment in the new MAP technology, although St. Petersburg-based MERPASA, a supplier of the imported packaging equipment, estimates that the technology - of Italian origin - would have cost the firm between €50-80,000.