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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fair Yields Bumper Crop of Local Producers

This year's fifth annual World-Food '96 exhibition yields a bigger harvest of Russian food and drink producers, but the up-and-comers are still vastly outnumbered by foreign importers and Russian trading companies.

Everything from bread- and beer-making machines to supermarket shelving to honeyed hams is served up this week at Moscow's Expocenter by 850 companies hailing from 51 countries. Those figures are up from last year's 550 companies and 41 countries.

Organizing officials were quick to highlight Russian producers among the new arrivals at the Expocenter, particularly amid recent outcries about the flood of cheaper imported foodstuffs undercutting Russian industry.

"There has clearly been dynamic growth among Russian firms," Alexander Bortsov, vice president of Krokus International, said at a press conference held last week with exhibition co-organizer Comtek International.

The 1994 exhibition featured only nine Russian companies and one producer, with last year's showing not much better, officials said. This year, though, there are 140 Russian companies -- three-quarters based in Moscow -- including 25 producers.

Vodka, drinks and produce companies were among the most high-profile Russian producers willing to shell out between $275 and $325 per square meter for booth space, including vodka and bread manufacturer Doka, Maiskii Chai tea traders, Mega Kola soft drink makers and Moscow Fruit Company. However, "there are no samogon [moonshine] exhibits," Bortsov noted.

"The first four years we saw the growth of foreign companies," said Jeff Mally, Comtek's director of international sales and marketing, "and in the last 18 months we have seen Russians bring in outside technology for food processing and packaging ... to come and compete beside international companies."

That may be true because many Russian producers are actually teaming up with partners in the West to improve their operations.

Irina Vishnevetskaya, manager of the Russian-Spanish meat processing factory Campomos, says that even with a foreign moniker and outside capital, Russian customers "prefer to buy our products -- we don't have preservatives and they know where our ingredients come from."

"They're used to the prices," she added. "Some are more expensive, but the quality is very high."

Asked why there are more Russian producers cropping up at exhibitions like World-Food '96, Vishnevetskaya said, "Russian industry had a lot of experience and talent, but no means. Now we have Western technology and capital."

Kampomos has two factories working 24 hours a day to produce a total of 150 tons of meat products like kolbasa every day, which with the help of European processing equipment rose from 100 tons a day last year. The 6-year-old company's third factory is slated to open in December, Vishnevetskaya said.

Another expanding company is Mega Kola, a 2-year-old maker and bottler of flavored soft drinks and mineral water. It delivers its own product and is seeking more distributors for its 8,000-bottles-per-hour production, according to Igor Zamyshlyaev of the company's marketing department.

Zamyshlyaev projects that volume will increase, adding that "orange [flavored soda] is our most popular flavor, because people like to mix it with vodka." The company is installing a second production line, he said.

Even more importantly, Russian companies, including Mega Kola, are trying to attract outside clients for self-made packaging components -- polyethylene films, preform, cartons, bottles and plugs.

According to Michael Mozak, Comtek's Moscow representative, Thermopak is one of several Russian packaging companies making inroads against European giants such as Tetra Laval in the local market.