Swiss & Austrian food in Russia: the market opportunities

Far from being overshadowed by neighbour Germany when it comes to European food and drink exports to Russia, Switzerland and Austria are more than holding their ground on the market.

Collectively, both nation’s Russian food exports come to just shy of $400 million. Crucially, however, they both differ in what they can and can’t export. Austria, as an EU member state, is restricted in its exports. Switzerland – not so much. The international food and drink exhibition WorldFood Moscow provides both Swiss and Austrian producers a platform to meet Russia’s key buyers, but what are their best prospects? Let’s find out.

Switzerland’s food and drink trade with Russia

Data from the online MIT Atlas of Economic Complexity trade database, Switzerland exported foodstuffs worth $203.7m to the Russian market in 2016. That represents a 6.9% rise in export values against 2015’s volumes – possibly as a result of Russia’s ban on imports of key EU-produced foodstuffs.

Dairy is one sector Russia has placed import restrictions on – giving a big boon to exporters of the oh-so-famous Swiss cheese. In 2015, eight Swiss producers, including Lucerne-based Emmi, were given the go ahead by Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia’s food safety watchdog, to start exporting. Total exports of swiss cheese to the Russian market are relatively small – but still clock in at $13.3m.

Cheese is from Switzerland’s most popular product in Russia, however. According to MIT, the top five Swiss products for Russian buyers are:

• Infant & baby food - $62.7m
• Flavoured & mineral waters - $24.3m
• Coffee - $21.2m • Cheese – $13.3m
• Chocolate - $9m

Baby food sales have been growing at around 5.3% across the last couple of years, according to a report by Kommersant. Does this mean enhanced opportunities for Swiss producers? Absolutely – but it doesn’t stop there. Switzerland actually ranks as one of the world’s leading exporters of coffee – even though it doesn’t actually grow any domestically.

Nestlé, a major coffee powerhouse, is Swiss. Their Nescafé brand in particular is known worldwide. This feeds into those multimillion Swiss coffee shipments. It also helps that Russia is emerging as an extensive coffee market too, so opportunities abound for Swiss suppliers.

Austrian food in Russia – exports grow despite ongoing embargo

While Switzerland, a country not under any real sanctions when it comes to Russian food trade, has seen its exports grow, they’re nothing compared to Austria’s.

As mentioned earlier, Switzerland was looking at 6.9% food export growth to Russia between 2015-2016. Austria, on the other hand, enjoyed an enormous 50% increase during the same period. In monetary terms, it was an encouraging leap from $126.5m to $190m. Let’s take a look at Austria’s leading foodstuffs on the Russian market:

• Sauces & seasoning - $38.1m
• Fruit juices - $15.4m
• Coffee - $12.2m
• Flavoured & mineral waters - $10m
• Pepper - $5.22m

Packaged food and drink, especially sauces and condiments, are rising in popularity in Russia right now. Its consumers are increasingly price and time conscious. Ready-prepared table and cooking sauces offer them a degree of convivence at an affordable price.

With mineral waters and fruit juices – the majority of which are pre-packaged and bottled options – are also beneficiaries of this trend too. Dual options for Swiss and Austrian food & drink producers in Russia Earlier in this article, we mentioned that Switzerland is not under embargo in Russia, when it comes to the food trade, whereas Austria is. However, there are still several sectors in which producers can fully explore their potential – restriction free. Amongst the biggest is confectionery.

Western producers already control 65% of chocolate, 55% of flour-based sweets, and 25% of sugar candy supplies in Russia. Chocolate, something of a speciality for DACH nations, is in top demand – with export volumes rising 37% between Jan-June 2017. For more information on the Russian confectionery market, please see this infographic. Whatever options you choose, WorldFood Moscow, Russia’s top international food trade event, lets you meet the buyers who want to get those products.