Friday, October 17, 2008

Russian innovation of Non-drip ice cream leads wave

A Russian dairy company has created a new ice cream brand called UFO whose extra-terrestrial name reflects its 'unearthly' ability to avoid melting. But this is just one of a raft of innovative products launched recently in Russia in a bid to kick-start growth, writes Angela Drujinina.

Produced by dairy processor MyasoMolTorg, based in Reazan, UFO is a cherry-flavoured ice cream product made with the latest in stabiliser technology. Once removed from the freezer, the ice cream does not melt into a liquid but turns into semi-solid jelly, making it far less messy.

The new product is just one of many introduced by MeasoMolTorg this year as it seeks to rekindle growth in a Russian market which has declined by 11 per cent compared to 2003 to 374 million tons.

Ekaterina Lunina, head of marketing at MeasoMolTorg, said that UFO was one of several innovations set to be unveiled at next month's ice cream and frozen food exhibition in Moscow. Other products include the Parad planet brand of frozen yoghurt and Nostalgie choc-ices.

MeasoMolTorg has about 50 per cent of the local ice cream market in Reazan, offering 100 or so lines including ice cream cones, choc-ices, waffles, tubs and frozen cakes. Its products are also sold in the Kaliningrad, Kursk, Smolensk, Orenburg, Krasnodar and Moscow regions.

Veaceslav Vygodin, head of the Union of Russian Ice Cream Manufacturers, agreed that product innovation was key to driving growth. "There are two main focus areas for companies looking to expand their ice cream sales in Russia. One is healthy products, while the other is looking for new variations on old themes."

Ukrainian company Koroloveskoe Morojennoe is one company that has focused on healthy ice cream products, including its Zdorovyi Vybor (Healthy Choice) family brand, Derji formu (Keep in Shape) energy ice cream for men, Tonkaya Talia (Thin waist) low calorie ice cream for women and the vitamin-enriched Vitaminizrovannoe brand aimed at children. All these brands have been well received and sales are growing fast.Another producer, Dnepropetrovsk-based Lasunka, has launched a fat- and sugar-free brand called 0+0, made using artificial sweeteners and fibre-based ingredients. The brand is aimed at diabetics and overweight people.

Meanwhile, Tomsk-based Ferment has created an ice cream containing live bacteria, designed to help regulate the intestinal flora.

Vgodin also stressed the growing popularity of frozen yoghurt, made not only by MeasoMolTorg but also by AlterWEST, Inmarko and Metelitza. "In the last few years, Europe has undergone a yoghurt boom - each European consumes about 13kg per year - driven by the product's healthy image. Many Russians are now taking greater care over what they eat, and ice cream manufacturers are keen take advantage of this growing trend by developing new products that they hope will not only restore the health of their customers but also of the ice cream market as a whole."

But while Russia's dairy companies are clearly capable of creating products that are innovative and attractive enough to restart growth, their Achilles' heel remains clumsy advertising.

"It is known that Russian manufacturers also make ice cream products which are healthy or tailored for consumers with a specific dietary problem. The problem is that these products are not widely advertised" said Vygodins, suggesting that this is likely to be a preoccupying factor for companies as they seek to build on the interest generated by their innovations.

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