Step № 21 – “GMO food, organic food and food additives”

“Your first 50 right steps to enter the Russian food market”.

Step№ 21 – “GMO food, organic food and food additives” 

This step 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

Yours faithfully,

Alexander Sinyanskiy

Business Adviser on Russian Food Market  

Please read the same my other steps:

Step № 2 – “Look at you products and website by the eyes of a Russian”

Step № 3 – “Do not offer commission!”

Step № 4 – “Learn and research about your future competitors”

Step № 5 – “Assess potential obstacles”

Step № 6 – “The most critical MUST-DO: localize and translate your food business into the Russian language”

Step № 9 – “Do everything only according to the law”

Step № 10 – “Corruption and crime”

Step № 12 – “We are looking for a food distributor in Russia! Just one exclusive distributor!”

Step № 19 – “Always collect all the information about your Russian partners”

Step № 24 – “Who are your potential clients in Russia?

Step № 26 – “Russian social networks”

Step № 32 – “Opening a Russian legal entity (LLC and JSC)”

Step № 33 – “Open a joint venture or buy a stake in a Russian business”

Step № 34 – “Opening a branch or a representative office of your company in Russia”

Step № 41 – “Are you thinking of selling your franchise to Russia? Good idea!”

Step № 46 – “How to find a distributor or buyer for FREE in the food market of Russia”

Step № 47 – “Holidays and days off in Russia. What for? Of course for business”

Step № 48 -“E-commerce in Russia”

Step № 49 – “Start your food business in Russia remotely and manage all processes without problems”

Lack of customization for the Russian food market, on the example of a bread machine of a very famous global company.

You often ask me why I do not use Whatsapp? I answer!

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