Russia: Plant-based market review
Fruit processing manufacturer Sady Pridonya is in pole position following the launch of the market’s first buckwheat milk alternative
The market share of plant-based milk alternatives on the shelves in Russian supermarkets ranges between 3%-4%, and the consumer’s preference for these products is on the up. Food companies in Russia have noticed the trend and have turned to this category with flying colours.
Sady Pridonya is one example. A major manufacturer in the market of natural juices, nectars, and baby food, the company launched the oat milk line NeMoloko in 2017 and said it wanted to secure 15% of the market from the traditional cow milk producers. NeMoloko hit the shelves at a time the plant-based drink segment was dominated by Danone’s Alpro brand.
In line with its market expansion plans, Sady Pridonya added buckwheat milk to the range, and NeMoloko Light hit the shelves in 2019. Below is a quick review of the new product:
- Ingredients list: water, buckwheat flour, rapeseed oil, calcium phosphate, salt, vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Retail price: 120 rubles / ~ US$2
- Competitor in the segment: No
- Competition in the category: Take a Bite, Alpro, Healthy Menu, Adez (by Coca-Cola, Joya, GreenMilk, VolkoMoloko, OraSi, Borges Natura, Valio, OddlyGood, MoreMilk!
- Competitive advantages: unique ingredients (buckwheat flour), the first of its kind on the retail Russian market
- Where to buy: several retail stores in Russia
- Application: as a drink, an additive to cereals, or milkshakes. Not very suitable for coffee.
Buckwheat is not a grain but a gluten-free seed similar to quinoa. It’s a complete protein ingredient boasting all nine amino acids. Buckwheat is a source of magnesium, iron, phosphorus, copper, and it also contains antioxidants, such as quercetin, rutin, and D-chiro-inositol.
In the product website page, the manufacturer claims that buckwheat is an environmentally friendly product that is “unpretentious to soils and is not afraid of weeds”, and thus, “it is not necessary to use pesticides and fertilizers when growing it”. The statement points out that “buckwheat is not a GMO product, this culture has not been genetically modified”.
The ‘clean label’ statement is a promise that food and drink marketplace in Russia embrace to meet the consumer preference for natural and sustainable products. For example, Globus, a well-known German hypermarket chain has introduced separate aisles for such clean-labelled products.
In pole position, Sady Pridonya’s buckwheat milk is the first of its kind in the Russian marketplace. A staple in Russian homes, buckwheat is largely eaten in porridge or kasha. Moreover, Russia is one of the leading producers of buckwheat in the world followed by China.
Buckwheat is frequently used as a social indicator during economic turbulent times. The seed was one of the first product to be stockpiled — a sign that for the Russian consumer, buckwheat is vital.
It took two years for Sady Pridonya to understand the consumer’s response to a new category, increasing the presence on shelves and strengthening brand recognition by adding new flavours, all the while ongoing new product development. NeMoloko Light hit the shelves of Russian retailers only when its sister oat milk product had shown steady sales.
The experience of the Sady in this category paves the way for new players who might want to try and replicate NeMoloko’s entry to the market. Today, consumers are familiar with the NeMoloko brand, meaning direct competitors in this price category, such as the Zdorovoe Menu, Green Milk, Take a Bite, might already be scratching their heads to find ways to remain competitive.
Food for thought
The packaging of NeMoloko Light highlights some of the health benefits of the product — high in fibre and vitamins — yet it fails to take advantage of the unique selling point that Sady Pridonya strategically noted on the website: buckwheat is not a GMO product.
Today’s consumers are used to the ‘with vitamin A’ or ‘sugar-free’ statement on the packaging, hence it’s no longer a competitive advantage among other plant-based drinks.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see other manufacturers turning to buckwheat for a plant-based milk alternative. Competition triggers innovation.
N.B: This edited version of the original article published by Askar Nadyrshin on LinkedIn has been published with the permission of the author.