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Russian demand for organic food rockets

Russia’s organic food market has grown by over 60% over the past five years, according to the head of the country’s National Organic Union (NOU) – and further growth could be on the cards as Russia’s consumers dive into the organic revolution.
Speaking to Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, NOU head Oleg Mironenko revealed that from $116 million in 2010, the market for organically produced food in Russia had risen to $178 million by the end of 2015, with 3% of Russians regularly choosing organic when buying food. Researchers share Mironenko’s optimism on the market – Euromonitor International has found that spending on packaged organic food and drink is also on the rise, touching $12 million in 2015.
Why? There are strong fundamentals for organic consumption in Russia – the country’s rich soil and long agricultural heritage means Russians have a deep-rooted preference for top-quality natural products. Recent surveys back this up, painting a bright future for the organic and health food market in Russia. A study by Russian researchers CVS Consulting in 2015 found that not only are Russians keen to buy organic, they would even do so if prices rose - 85% of Russians surveyed by CVS said they would buy organic if prices increased 10%, and half would shop eco after a 20% hike. 
As well as the desire to eat cleaner, the success of organic in Russia is also down to a shift in the pricing structure in Russian supermarkets. Previously, food prices depended purely on freshness or slick packaging, but now organic food is starting to occupy the higher end of the market and provide a genuine premium option for quality-conscious Russian shoppers.
This means a huge number of potential eco-shoppers, and more and more organic-focused retail outlets are appearing to meet the demand. Greenstore, a chain that only sells organic and health foods, made its entry into the Moscow market in April 2016, taking premises in the Afimoll-City mall next to Moscow’s Expocentre. The company also announced it will soon being a delivery service to nearby offices, as Russian workers pay more attention to what they eat on the job.
Politicians have recognised this rising demand and are reacting accordingly. Deputy Prime Minister revealed at a biotech conference last year that ‘we have made the decision not to use any genetically-modified organisms in (Russian) food production’, and the organic drive goes one step higher – President Vladimir Putin said in December 2015 that he wants Russia to become the world’s biggest global supplier of eco-friendly food.
However, it is still early days for this young market, so imports from producers in more established markets play a vital role – ‘imports are prevailing in the health food market,’ said Ilya Kaletkin, the head of Russian organic heavyweight Arivera, in an interview given last year. One exporter finding success in Russia’s ecofood market is Alce Nero, one of Italy’s biggest producers of health foods. The company’s range of Italian staples is found in scores of health food shops across Moscow and the rest of Russia. 
Like most markets where big opportunities lie, Russia’s organic food market is still in its infancy, but it is one that eco-specialists cannot afford to ignore. The 3% of Russians regularly consuming organic food adds up to a market of four and a half million – and this number is only going to rise. 
“We started importing organic food products to Russia in 2005,” says Kaletkin. “Back then, there were very few people who had even heard of organic products, never mind used them regularly. Now, thanks to our efforts and the efforts of other organic enthusiasts, more and more people are coming to organic.” All the signs point to great potential in Russia’s organic and health food market for suppliers to tap into.   


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