Growing wealth of Russian population results into increasing consumption of seafood snacks

November 27, 2007 15:19

In the recent years consumption of seafood snacks has been continuously increasing in Russia as the population's welfare has been improving. Now, supplies of dried Caspian roach, which has long been a traditional beer snack in Russia, have been decreasing, while rusks, the snack group's best seller on the Russian market, have given way to chips. In the above situation the Russian snack kings who have earned millions on dried bread have to import dry-cured Asian marine finfish, shellfish and mollusks and create new flavors for their rusks, according to Kommersant-Dengi.

Growing demand for various roach analogues can be explained by growing welfare of the population and the consumers' drive to healthy food. Snacks are certainly not associated with healthy food, though the dietitians notice that with respect to fish and mollusks the statement is true in a smaller extent. Seafood snacks are rich in animal protein which is better for health than the vegetable protein. However, it is certainly not recommended to eat too much of it as the excessiveness can cause allergy. According to COMCON market and media research company, 54% of consumers perceive rusks as a bite and 42% of consumers take them with beer as snacks, while 75% of consumers use seafood delis exclusively with light alcoholic beverages.

Salted and dried seafood snacks are the Russian know-how, though the lion's share of the products comes from the Southeast Asia. There people eat sweet dried squid, while various fish species are most often eaten in salads. Beer snacks from seafood items are not eaten in the East at all.

The idea to introduce Asian delicatessen into the Russian seafood snacks was born in the Russian Far East and Vladivostok-based Dalpiko Company became Russia's first producer of seafood snacks. More specifically, in 1997 the company launched production of dried squid in bright yellow packaging which became the pioneer product in the history of Russia's seafood snack market. In the year 2003 the monopoly of squid was staggered by yellowstripe scad with the demand for the new species booming against slower sales of squid snacks. At that time, Dalpiko kept staking on squid which still enjoyed a strong demand then, while in the following years the company diversified its range of seafood snacks with yellowstripe scad, anchovy, smelt, etc. Now Dalpiko remains one of the leaders on Russia's market of seafood snacks and the absolute leader on the nation's market of squid snacks.

Squid has so far no competitors on the market with the share of dried squid accounting for ca.40% of the whole supply of seafood snacks in Russia. The above mentioned yellowstripe scad has not won even 25% of the market yet. As raw material for the snacks producers use only three squid species: Argentinean squid, Peruvian squid and neon flying squid Ommastrephes bartrami. In particular, Dalpiko works with the latter species inhabiting the seas of the Russian Far East Fisheries Basin. Though Dalpiko's range is offered at prices higher than those of the company's competitives, Dalpiko's General Director Vladimir Kononov says that it is fair thanks to higher quality and fine taste of the products. For instance, in Japan squid sushi are made exactly from O. bartrami squid, Kononov underlined.

In the meantime, CEO of Sibirsky Bereg Company, another Russia's squid snack producer with a market share of 13%, thinks that Peruvian giant squid (equal to human's height by the way) is the best raw for dried squid snacks.

Along with the above, the Russian market of seafood snacks has adjusted to such novelties as small-size fishes, e.g. anchovy and smelt. As some Chinese and Vietnamese fish either do not have Russian names or their official Russian names sound quite awkward in Russian, producers have to invent ear-friendly names such as amber, pearl and marble fish. For instance, the name of Vietnamese fish Ho is actually translated into Russian as blunt-headed pangolin-tooth and the producers actually doubt that the Russian consumers will agree to have beer with dinosaur.

Along with roach, which has been long loved by the Russians, BEERka-labelled range of seafood snacks produced by Sibirsky Bereg now includes pike perch, pink salmon and flounder. According to the company's CEO Mr.Ladan, the Russian fish is very promising thanks to strong consumer interest.

The problem is that the supply of raw fish has been growing dramatically low, especially the supply of wild fish, complained Viktor Ivanov, General Director of Artomix Company engaged in production of a range of some 15 snacks from the Russian fish under the Generalskaya label. Artomix also sells Far Eastern and Asian seafood, but those products simply close the gaps in the product line. At the same time, the company's two own factories in Astrakhan are not always loaded. Sometimes the company cannot cover own quotas and it has to process what the fleets can harvest, Ivanov admitted. The shortage of roach, bream and redfin has already caused a price rise by 70% for the recent 12 months. However, in spite of the above price hikes, the growing demand has enabled the fleet to operate with a profit of 20-30%.

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