Angelika Meier is spokeswoman for the 14th annual Modern Bakery Moscow trade fair for bakery equipment and food ingredients which takes place next week, from 13 to 16 October.
She told BakeryandSnacks.com that Russian business customers tend to value face-to-face contact with suppliers and that if European manufacturers seek to take advantage of Russian interest in western bakery products, they must be prepared to build strong relationships with new customers.
She said: “Good service is the key to success in Russia. Companies need to have really good working relations with clients and must be present on the Russian markets. They must have staff who are able to speak and deal in Russian. Customers want the opportunity to call a company and have direct contacts. This is really very important - it is not sufficient to talk on the phone or to send an email.”
There has been a steep increase in personal wealth in Russia over the past few years which has driven huge growth in consumer goods, including premium food products. Recent figures from investment bank Lehman Brothers showed that the average Russian monthly income has increased from $160 in 2002 to $540 today.
Russians eat more bread per capita than anyone else in Europe, consuming approximately 100 kilograms each year. Traditional Russian black breads still dominate the market but as personal incomes have risen, so has demand for western-style bakery products such as pastries, croissants, baguettes and ciabatta.
Meier said: “Most Russians who have a good living tend to substitute their ordinary bread for more delicate breads and pastries. In general, consumers demand more product variety and are willing to pay a higher price for specialty breads. Pastry types are very much on the rise at the moment.”
Prepackaged and premium brands
Until recently, demand had been focussed on unpackaged bakery products but the market is now shifting towards prepackaged varieties as supermarket chains recognise this trend. Specialty cakes, breads and snacks also make popular gifts in Russia, where bread and salt are traditionally served to welcome important guests and to symbolise friendship and trust.
Moscow has long been the trend-setter for Russian consumer tastes and while the trend for western bakery items started there two or three years ago, it has now expanded to other major cities.
“Russia is now repeating western tendencies but with a time lag. Their own traditional breads are still very important but premium brands have the most growth potential,” said Meier. “There is also a growing demand for bakery products and technologies in Eastern Europe and Asia.”
Modern Bakery Moscow expects to attract an estimated 16,000 visitors and more than 200 exhibitors from 22 countries.