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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Juices Flow With Western Branding

When director Vladimir Tambov resolved in 1992 to turn the giant Lianozovsky Dairy plant -- Europe's largest -- into a more competitive enterprise, his first order of business was to create a latin script logo, Wimm-Bill-Dann, and have it patented. To this day, no one at the plant seems to know where the name came from or what it alludes to.


But whatever it may mean, adopting a foreign-sounding name was a shrewd move. Market research in the early '90s showed that the disdain for anything Soviet-made was so intense that domestic demand would be low for new Russian products carrying Russian brand names. Over the last two years, Wimm-Bill-Dann has also become a leader in the Moscow fruit juice market.


Wimm-Bill-Dann's marketing director, Oleg Kuzmin, believes the new name stirs up a pleasant, perhaps somewhat childlike association for the company's main consumer group -- children and health-conscious adults from 24 to 40 years old.


Below the name there is a small animal resembling something between Mickey Mouse and a Central Asian jerboa. Company management has since come to consider Wimm-Bill-Dann the "mouse's" nickname.


The company's J-7 and Dr. Fresh juices have become prominent on the domestic market. According to a Gallup poll of 1,100 Muscovites conducted in May, J-7 is Moscow's favorite fruit juice. Thirty percent of the city's residents regularly purchase J-7.


The Tampico and Jaffa brands come in second and third place with 28 and 18 percent respectively. Lianozovsky's Dr. Fresh brand occupies fourth place at 15 percent. Last year, the plant churned out 70 million liters of juice.


Wimm-Bill-Dann has backed up its expansion into the fruit juice sector with aggressive advertising. The company plans to spend more than $2 million on advertising this year, said Kuzmin, more, according to figures from the Russian Public Relations Group, than did Pepsi and Coca-Cola last year -- their 1995 advertising spends on television and outdoor advertising were $1.25 million and $1.1 million respectively.


The company also continues as a dairy, with its long-life milk, yogurt and kefir and other milk products.


Today, the spirit of the times is shifting back, and Wimm-Bill-Dann, sensitive to shifts in public preferences, has joined in the movement back to Russian roots -- although, ironically, with help from foreign partners. Following a contract from the Hungarian firm Globus, the plant bottles pickled cucumbers and green peas under the Russian brand name "From Babushka's Cellar."


At the beginning of the '90s, the Lianozovsky plant, like most other Moscow dairies, confined its operations to bottled milk with a short shelf life. Demand at that time was falling, and stores had begun to return milk deliveries.


According to Olga Borovikovaya, chief specialist at Moscow city's food resource department, demand for milk in the capital city began falling off from the moment economic reforms began, and has shrunk since to a third of its previous level.


The Wimm-Bill-Dann company now includes not just the Lianozovsky plant but also a trading company of the same name, the Ramensky Dairy Plant and Co. and a food machinery and marketing firm.


Marketing director Kuzmin said his first priority had been to reorganize production. Production lines were re-equipped to pasteurize and hermetically package dairy products to extend shelf lives to six months.


The plant widened its product line to include yogurts -- a new phenomenon for Russians -- and kefir with fruit syrups as well as juice. Although the company is now best known for its juices, dairy products still make up 80 percent of production volume.


Production has increased sharply: Kuzmin says production for the first six months of this year has already surpassed that for the whole of 1995.


"Our greatest challenge was to change the stereotype held by consumers and retailers alike, that a Russian company, with its cold climate, cannot make quality natural orange and pineapple juices," Kuzmin said. "When we asked: 'And how is it that German and Dutch companies can do it?' they would answer, 'They have state-of-the-art technology.'"


At the start, Wimm-Bill-Dann focused its marketing on telling Russian consumers that the company's J-7 juices are produced with foreign technology.


In fact, most orange juice concentrate comes from the same bulk sources, and it is the quality of this source which matters.


J-7 juice, said one Western juice manufacturer in Moscow, who asked not to be named, can be considered a medium-quality juice. Its price reflects this: It often retails for around 6,000 rubles, where for the same quantity a top-of-the-line juice sells for about 1,000-2,000 rubles more.


The quality of the concentrate is not the whole story. Even in countries where product description has to be very precise, consumers have to be wary of wording -- a fruit "drink" is rarely the same as a fruit juice, and often covers the fact that the original concentrate has been watered down, and down, and down.


In Russia, producers of better-quality juices are having to contend with an onslaught of cheap imported juices which go under the guise of 100 percent juice, but which often contain much less.


Finding good domestic sources of juices remains a priority for Wimm-Bill-Dann, says the company's Kuzmin. "Unfortunately, only apple juice -- made with apples from Krasnodar -- can be called truly Russian," he said. The company has so far had no luck finding domestic suppliers who can deliver good quality, fresh tomatoes and grapes.