“Your first 50 right steps to enter the Russian food market”.
Step№ 21 – “GMO food, organic food and food additives”
This article is about three topics relating to food safety in Russia, which is extremely interesting for foreign companies I work with. Of course, each area is worth a separate article, so today I will provide just basic general information.
GMO (GM) food.
Generally, it is forbidden to grow or sell GM food products in Russian. This is especially true for agribusiness in Russia. There are only 16 exceptions: three varieties of potatoes, several varieties of sugar beetroots, tomatoes and corn. Moreover, only specific kinds of these GMO vegetables are allowed.
I am occasionally asked to find a supplier of no GMO soybeans or soybean oil. So I explain to everyone that GM soybeans do not exist in Russia. They are all natural. The main buyers of Russian soybeans are Chinese companies.
More than 10 years ago a strict law was introduced in Russia making manufactures mark their food products with a “no GMO” sign. Food shops were forbidden to buy products without such a sign. Only companies producing such products as water, sunflower oil, milk, coffee, and some more were allowed not to put such a sign on their packaging. You can easily find a full list of such exempt food products on the Internet.
Personally, I have not heard of a single case in Russia when someone’s food products were checked GMOs were found. I also have not heard that some food production facility was closed due to the use of GMO raw materials.
As for consumers, of course, everyone in Russia knows about possible dangers of GM food, but it is not the key factor for people when they choose what food products to buy. They primarily look at expiry date of a product.
If your business is related to GM food products, then I recommend starting your sales in former CIS countries. For example, in Ukraine there are no restrictions on GMO products. This is used by lot of agribusinesses from the USA that open their branches in Ukraine and grow GMO wheat and corn there.
Organic (eco) food.
Organic food is usually called eco food in Russia. Now eco food products as opposed to GMO food products are in trend in Russia. This is due to the fact that now it is fashionable be healthy, eat healthy and exercise.
There is no eco-certification specific for Russia. Manufacturers themselves can claim their products to be organic/eco. For example, these can be farmers who grow their products in ecologically clean areas without the use of chemical fertilizers. Their products are in demand in large cities and they are called “farmer” food products. This is usually milk, bread, vegetables, meat, etc.
But in 90% of cases, the word “organic” or “eco” on the packaging of Russian products is a marketing tool. That is why European products with European organic/eco labels are very popular in Russia. Russian buyers trust European certificates. For example, all household chemicals at my home are either French or German and they have a European Ecolabel.
Eco-labelled products are several times more expensive than ordinary products. So if you plan to enter Russian food market with truly organic/eco products, your chances to succeed are quite high. Firstly, because there are very few imported food products with ecolabels in Russia. Secondly, because you can charge a higher price. You can focus your sales on the most expensive cities in Russia – Moscow and St. Petersburg. Standards of living are higher there than in other Russian cities, average salaries are higher too.
It is unlikely you will sell large volumes of eco-products in Russia, but you will easily get your market share. Organic/eco products are a growing trend in Russia.
Food additives “Е”.
In Russia we use European classification of food additives, so we use “E” numbers when talking about food additives.
When buying food, Russian consumers pay special attention to food additives with “E” numbers. About 10 years ago Russian doctors got concerned with the population’s health and most of health problems they associated with “E” additives. A lot of people know by heart the most dangerous “E” food additives and look for them of the food packaging. There is a special control on such food additives in food products for children.
If you have many ingredients in your food product, you need to check in advance that there are no additives or ingredients banned in Russia. There is a specific list of prohibited food additives which can be easily found on the Internet. The list often changes due to new test results scientific analysis. So, you need to find the latest version of this list when you start planning to supply your food products to Russian food market.
Below I give a few examples from this list:
E121 – Citrus red 2
E123 – Red amaranth
E127 – Erythrosine
E128 – Red 2G
E154 – Brown FK
E173 – Aluminum
E180 – Lithol Rubine BK
E216 – Propyl para-hydroxybenzoate
E217 – Sodium propyl para-hydroxybenzoate
E240 – Formaldehyde
Antioxidants & acidity regulators:
E388 – Thiopropionic acid
E389 – Dilauryl thiodipropionate
Thickeners, stabilisers, emulsifiers:
E424 – Curdlan
Acidity regulators, anti-caking agents:
E512 – Stannous chloride
E537 – Ferrous hexacyanomanganate
E557 – Zinc silicate
Glazing agents, gases and sweeteners:
E912 – Montanic acid esters
E914 – Oxidized polyethylene wax
E916 – Calcium iodate
E917 – Potassium iodate
E918 – Nitrogen oxides
E919 – Nitrosyl chloride
E922 – Potassium persulfate
E923 – Ammonium persulfate
E924b – Calcium bromate
E925 – Chlorine
E926 – Chlorine dioxide
E929 – Acetone peroxide
Permitted in Russia, but prohibited in the European Union:
E102 – Tartrazine
E142 – Green S
E425 – Konjac (i) Konjac gum (ii) Konjac glucomannane
Business Solutions in the Rusian Food Industry
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