Finland’s Fazer Group has announced it will be leaving the Russian market.

The news, announced yesterday (6 March), follows last week’s decision by Fazer to suspend exports of confectionery, grain and bakery products from Finland to Russia and to stop all investments in the country.

In a statement issued yesterday evening Finnish time, Fazer CEO Christoph Vitzthum said: “We see no other solution than to exit Russia. Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an act of aggression which has tragic consequences across the region. We have several stakeholders and severe consequences to take into consideration, which has not allowed us as fast an exit as we would have wished for. We have worked relentlessly and as fast as possible, taking possible risks and threats into consideration.”

He added: “I understand that a lot of our loyal and valued customers as well as many other stakeholders have felt that Fazer should have taken this decision earlier. I can assure you that this decision was always the only alternative but due to the above-mentioned circumstances we were unable to take this decision earlier.”

Fazer has three bakeries in St Petersburg and one in Moscow, employing approximately 2,300 people. In 2021, the company’s net sales in Russia were approximately EUR157m (US$170.5m), accounting for 13% of the group’s total sales.

As late as Friday night (4 March), Fazer was expressing concern about what a cessation of business in Russia might mean, saying the food sector had “specific obligations”.

It said: “We also wish to look at the situation from a humanitarian perspective. Bread is a staple food, and a sudden halt of production would cause major problems for the civilian population in St Petersburg and Moscow.”

The Finnish company said in its latest statement that its exit process will be done with “due consideration to Fazer employees and local laws” but it may prove hard to disentangle itself given that Moscow announced last week that it will temporarily stop foreign investors from selling Russian assets.

Just Food has asked Fazer for clarification on the exit process.

For more on Just Food’s coverage on how the conflict is affecting the food industry, please visit our dedicated microsite.