The influence of Western consumption habits in Russia has led to an increasing penchant among Russian consumers for snacking between meals, making the snacks category a growth market. Francisco Redruello of Euromonitor International reports.

Economic growth and modernisation in Russia has led to the adoption of many Western consumer patterns, particularly within large cities, and among these is an increasing fondness for snacking between meals. The consensus of opinion is that snacking is an emerging trend in the Russian food sector and a developing market. Euromonitor International estimates that retail value sales of sweet and savoury snacks grew by 13% between 2004 and 2005.

The snacks sector in Russia is quite diverse, covering sweet and savoury products as well as chocolate confectionery and pastries. Savoury snacks are relatively new and are becoming quite popular. Another dynamic category is chocolate confectionery which saw retail value sales increase by 7% in 2005. Pastries, meanwhile, recorded a modest 3% increase in 2005, hitting US$52.6bn, according to Euromonitor International’s estimates.

Since 2000, sales of savoury snacks have grown rapidly due to new product launches and the heavy promotion of national brands. Salt crusts (dry pieces of bread with different flavours) are relatively new in the Russian market and have become increasingly popular over the last five years. Similarly, chips/crisps and, to a lesser extent, bread sticks are becoming very popular among Russians. They are cheap and widely available through kiosks, along with chocolate tablets and countlines.

Ice cream is also quite a popular snack among Russians, and is consumed throughout the year, even in winter. Another preferred snack among consumers is Sukhariki which is a type of crouton. Sukhariki are very cheap and available in a wide range of flavours, including pork, beef and herbs. They are eaten at the office, at home or in bars and are often consumed with beer.

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Russian people typically snack at the office after buying a snack from a kiosk. The other most popular place to snack is at home, usually at the weekend, while watching television or meeting up with friends and family. Purchases of snacks for these occasions are usually planned; they are therefore frequently made in small and medium-sized supermarkets, hypermarkets and local bakeries.

Home snacking in Russia involves products such as ice cream, chips/crisps, bread sticks (savoury snack), chocolate tablets, countlines and fruit (bananas and apples), among others.

When meeting friends and family at the weekend in foodservice outlets, Russian consumers are regarded as ‘sociable eaters but unsociable snackers’. Overall, eating outside the home is considered to be a special occasion by most Russians, where they celebrate with friends and spend money on eating a ‘proper meal’, involving a large number of different courses, leaving little room for snacking. ‘Sociable snacking’ does, however, occasionally take place in cafés, where sandwiches, pastries, chips/crisps and cakes are consumed alongside a coffee or soft drink.

Summer cafés are becoming increasingly popular in major cities in Russia. The format appeared at the end of the 1990s in response to the lack of entertainment in suburban districts of big cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg. These outlets typically take the form of tent-cafés, sometimes featuring a beer manufacturer’s logo, such as the “Baltika” logo. They are generally situated in parks, on housing estates or in other public spaces. They have few tables and chairs, and offer products like chips/crisps, chocolate confectionery, nuts, carbonates, biscuits, cakes, beer, FABs, fruit/vegetable juice, and bottled water.

Interestingly, distribution outlets vary greatly, depending on the snack product in question. Pastries and cakes that are consumed on the go, for example, are bought in independent bakeries (called Bulochnaya in Russian). Buns, croissants, éclairs, puff pastries, muffins, doughnuts and apple turnovers are the most common pastries in Russia. Chocolate confectionery is mainly purchased on impulse in street kiosks, which are open long hours and offer items such as magazines, savoury snacks and sugar confectionery, as well as cigarettes and alcoholic drinks.

Branded kiosks that feature a logo and offer ready-to-eat hot food and drinks are becoming quite trendy in Russia. They usually have a lunch counter where consumers can rest hot cups and stand and eat.

Overall, there is no apparent gender differentiation within snacking, with no lines targeted specifically at either sex. Russian women, however, tend to snack more often than men, and housewives decide which brands to buy when they go to supermarkets for their daily/weekly shopping.

Nestlé Classic for Men (chocolate tablets) is one snack line that is targeted at a particular sex. This brand extension, introduced in November 2005, is thicker than standard chocolate tablets, and its broad, square design is intended to be more appealing to male consumers. Interestingly, it is rare to find chocolate confectionery brands specifically targeted at children. Children opt for cheaper brands, and usually choose smaller formats as they are more affordable. Furthermore, countlines are especially popular among children, even though there are no specific lines marketed exclusively at this age segment.

Sweet and Savoury Snacks in Russia