Demand for frozen seafood is growing rapidly in Russia backed by health claims on packs, but the dominance of selling from loose remains a big challenge, reports Angela Drujinina.
Russian producer Ledovo has just launched a range of pre-packed frozen seafood under the Salmon brand, including Mix Exotica and Peeled Crawfish Tail products.
Ledovo will supply 320 tons of products in the first three months to be sold in the biggest Moscow supermarkets, in packs of 250, 450 and 900g.
Russia's market for frozen seafood products is growing quickly. In 2005 predicted volume is set to be worth US$1bn, while the market is rising by 20-40 per cent every year. The leading products are cold-water shrimp in the medium and above medium price ranges.
Ledovo said it wanted to draw consumers' attention to seafood products by making them more accessible, particularly those considered as exotic by many Russian families.
However, the market for packaged, frozen seafood remains significantly behind that products sold loose (weighed-out) and market share has even slipped in some places.
For example, last year weighed-out shrimps had an 80 per cent share of the market compared to a 50-50 split between loose and pre-packed in 2002.
Buying products loose also suits all parties: suppliers and retailers have big sales, while the consumer buys a product of a good quality at affordable prices.
Ledovo acknowledged the problem but was adamant that packaged seafood had strong potential. The firm said it would use health claims on packs to lure Russia's increasingly health-conscious consumers.
"Pink shrimps are a rich source of amino acids, vitamin â12 and vitamins A, E and D. Crawfish is an ecologically clean product, which is especially appreciated for its proteins," said Ilya Pershin, Ledovo marketing director.
"Our seafood cocktail, Mix Exotica, is unique on the Russian market. We consider that shrimps and crawfish tails are a wonderful gourmet mix for a consumer who values his/her time and health. We are confident this will be a hit of the season."
Frozen food generally is also gaining credence in Russia. "Three or four years ago, people only bought frozen products irregularly," said Tatyana Matiushina, vice-director of Market marketing agency.
"Now we can talk about the fact that there is a group of frozen products consumers, who regularly consume frozen vegetables, mushrooms and seafood."
Ledovo, founded 10 years ago, has tapped in to this market well, and was a leading Russian manufacturer of frozen vegetables, mushrooms and berries in 2004.
The company manufactures about 30 tons of frozen products and 3000 conditional cans of preservatives every day. Total production volume manufactured and sold in 2004 was about 8000 tons.
Different Ledovo products have the following share of their respective Russian markets: preservatives - 90 per cent; shrimps - 35 per cent; peeled sea delicacies - 25 per cent; frozen field mushrooms - 11 per cent; delicacy rice mixture - eight per cent.