How green is my diet? Organic food in Russia

Russia has been a little slow to get off the organic blocks initially, but now the market is picking up with gusto – so pay attention exporters!

Russians are becoming more and more health conscious. A younger generation is turning away from fatty and sugary foodstuffs. Instead, young Russians want greener, cleaner tastes to dance across their palettes. The results are a rapidly growing market – one which is reliant on imports to keep growth consistent.

Russia’s expanding organic food market

Currently, the size of the organic sector, in Russia treated as a sub-segment of the overall health food market, is up to $250m. Globally, this is a little on the small side. Worldwide, organic and green foodstuffs is an industry worth approximately $100 billion. Even so, Russian organic food sales have tripled since the start of the decade. This growth wasn’t even hampered by the Russian recession, nor its ongoing trade spat with the EU, US and other key agricultural suppliers. “The crisis did not kill the consumption of organic products,” says Oleg Mironenko, Executive Directior of Russia’s National Organic Union. “Maybe the average pay check fell, but the demand remained.”

Russians have consistently been buying 10% more natural foods year-on-year since 2010. 44% of the greater health foods sector is made up by natural produce, according to research from NeoAnalytics. As such, the nation is one of the fastest growing markets for these products in the world. Currently, growth rates are outstripping those from the Philippines, Madagascar, and even agricultural powerhouse Italy.

Imports cover the bulk of natural health food products in Russia

Up to 85% of all the health foods in Russia, including organic items, are imported. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, lack of domestic development of farming in a sustainable, pesticide-free, natural way. Russia is not for trying though. It’s on President Putin’s agenda to make Russia a net exporter of organic goods, so agriculture is seeing big state support in this area. Another is trust. Food labelling in Russia is not the most accurate, regarding locally produced goods. See the abundance of “fake” dairy products in stores nationwide as an example.

The regulations governing what can and can’t be considered organic in Russia are still being developed. International brands, particularly in countries with strong healthy foodstuff sales and production, have no such qualms. Their regulatory framework and labelling regimes have already been worked out. Simply put, if it’s an imported product, and the label says it’s organic, then chances are, in Russia, it actually is. Specialist importers, like Moscow-based Arivera, handle such shipments. You’ll find a great number of them at the international WorldFood Moscow food & drink exhibition.