Saturday, December 18, 2010

Local delights on Russian menus

Business Times: Sat, Dec 18
SINGAPORE food companies are entering Russia's huge F&B market through the kitchen-doors of Russian dining chains. Local food firms are helping to put Hainanese chicken rice and Singapore chilli crab on the menus of Russia's mid-range restaura...
SINGAPORE food companies are entering Russia's huge F&B market through the kitchen-doors of Russian dining chains.


Local food firms are helping to put Hainanese chicken rice and Singapore chilli crab on the menus of Russia's mid-range restaurants, some of which have gone from running promotional test menus to installing such dishes on their main menus.


Russian restaurant group Rosinter has partnered Prima Taste - known for its ready-to-cook pastes - to launch a 10-dish Singapore menu in all 134 of its Planet Sushi outlets across Russia's key cities last month.


A best-seller in Moscow now is its 'laksa - traditional Singaporean soup and Jurong salad with sweet nutty sauce', says Rosinter marketing director for Asian cuisine Egor Vaganov. And although the first sales report will only be out in January, feedback has been good as 'demand for pan-Asian cuisine is growing in Russia', he says.


Prima Taste has also worked with Asian-dining chain Dve Palochki, which will run a Singapore menu till the end of next year. The owner of 23 restaurants in central and north-west Russia will put satay and laksa on its main menu in 2011, sourcing its pastes and mixes from Prima Taste - a collaboration resulting from an International Enterprise (IE) Singapore mission which in April flew in seven major Russian and Ukrainian restaurant chain operators to meet local food companies.


Prima Taste general manager Sally Lum hopes to grow its chain restaurant client pool by 50 per cent in the coming year, and is optimistic about the growing interest in Asian food among Russians.


She says that the company chose to enter via the food service business rather than via supermarket shelves as Singapore food is still relatively unknown in Russia.


'By working with the restaurants to create the Singapore menus, we are promoting awareness of Singaporean cuisine. This will be helpful when we retail our products at the supermarket chains at a later stage,' says Ms Lum. The latter strategy also requires listing fees and advertising and promotion which can be costly in Russia.


But frozen snacks manufacturer Tee Yih Jia, with its different product offering, brought its dim sum range of prawn and meat dumplings into Russia in 2008 by supplying to wholesalers, supermarkets, food production factories and industrial caterers.


Market development manager Laureen Goi says that Tee Yih Jia's sales in Russia have grown a compound annualised 30 per cent since, and expects business to double next year.


While the company has worked with a few Singapore restaurants there and supplied to the High Commission, its range of frozen snacks is sold in thematic Russian restaurants and franchises too. But Singapore's food companies must be aware of competition from this region, looking for a share of the Asian-cuisine pie in Russia. Rosinter, for instance, already works with regional manufacturers such as Thai Union, a seafood products and solutions manufacturer.


Local players can be assured of help though, as one key thrust of IE Singapore's five-year roadmap unveiled in March is to help local firms enter non-traditional emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, and the Middle East.


Tan Soon Kim, IE Singapore group director for lifestyle business, thinks that there are growing opportunities as 'Russian palates get increasingly receptive to Asian cuisine'.


Hotels, restaurants and caterers looking to diversify menus will demand 'food choices that are different, safe and of high quality', demands which Singapore's food manufacturers can meet, he adds. Russia's restaurant segment is expanding at a rapid 20 per cent each year, with growth hitting 30 per cent in Moscow. Business Monitor International Russia has also forecast an 80 per cent jump in consumer spending per capita from about US$7,500 in 2009 to US$13,400 by 2014, and richer Russian consumers are expected to dine out more.


Russia may still be a fledgling market for local food manufacturers, but other emerging markets have also been targeted too. Prima Taste, for instance, already sells in unconventional ones such as Egypt and Mongolia, and is looking to the Middle East and the rest of Africa.


Overall, Singapore food exports have grown at a compound annual rate of 8.6 per cent from $2.5 billion in 2005 to $3.5 billion last year.

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