A national strategy for promoting Russian fish products was discussed at the sidelines of GFF 2018

The “Russian fish: a strategy for promoting Russian fish products on the Russian market” conference was held on the final day of the 2nd International Fishery Forum in St. Petersburg. The session’s participants assessed Russians’ consumer preferences and habits and discussed measures for stimulating demand on the domestic market and for shaping a new consumer culture.

“Russia is one of the leading fishing powers, but Russia’ fish consumption is rather low for that status. We need an inter-sectoral discussion on developing a national strategy for promoting fish consumption in Russia,” said Roman Karmanov, Deputy Directory of Komsomolskaya Pravda Publishing House.

Alfred Bogdanov, Secretary General of the Russian Union of Nutritionists, Dieticians, and Food Industry Experts, Executive Secretary of the Specialized Nutrition Science Commission at the Expert Healthcare Council of the Ministry of Healthcare of the Russian Federation, Head of the Cardiovascular Morbidity Department at the Federal Research Center for Nutrition and Biotechnology, spoke about the importance of fish for nutrition and for disease prevention. About 18% of Russia’s population already have alimentary-related diseases stemming from food intake. In this situation, the medical community is prepared to promote fish consumption.

Fish is biologically valuable, and it as an accessible product, the source of omega-3 acids that decrease the chance of developing alimentary-related diseases by 30%. “The key point is educating the consumer, and personalized nutrition science is most effective. We need to pool our efforts,” the expert noted.

Kirill Rodin, Deputy Director General of VTsIOM, presented the research “Fish and fish products consumption in Russia” conducted in August 2018 by phone interviews with 1,600 respondents. 44% said they eat fish almost every day or several times a week; 62% believe they do not consume enough fish. Fish purchase frequency is falling, main criteria for choosing fish is how it looks, it freshness, and expiration date.

Most Russians (74%) have their favorite fish dishes, mostly fried fish (22%). There is no established fish consumption culture in Russia: fish lovers buy it frequently (21%), however, 39% are indifferent (they do not buy fish and do not like it). Most frequently, fish is purchased in the Far Eastern Federal district where it is the norm and routine; least frequent fish purchases are typical for the North Caucasus Federal District.

Stanislav Naumov, Government Agencies Relations Director at X5 Retail Group, noted that customers want to buy quality goods at affordable prices and in beautiful and attractive packaging. A typical customer at the fish department in Perekrestok supermarket chain is a woman over 40 who spends on fish RUB 280 on average a month.

At the conference, Stephen Kreeger, Director for Business Development at RosAgroMarket, presented the project of establishing a federal chain of wholesale distribution centers offering for lease warehouses specifically designed for the fresh segment, foods logistics services, and sales of goods via retail chains.

Polina Kirova, Director for Development at the Rybset (Fish Chain) fish supermarket chain, noted the population and stores’ low awareness of fish products. Despite the popular healthy lifestyle trend, people do not know how to choose quality fish, are not aware of producers’ brands, except for canned products.

“Fish manufacturers need to invest in their brands. Non-transparent packaging is becoming obsolete, people want to see the products they intend to buy. What is relevant is smaller sizes, portion-sized packaging, economic approach to cooking time. Many prefer fillets, steaks, part-cooked foods, they want to fit the ‘chicken format.’ Our priority objective is educating the consumer. We are making videos on choosing fish; jointly with VNIRO, we have developed lecture for sellers,” Polina Kirova said.

Technologies are an important element in putting fish on tables in Russia, says Sergey Gudkov, Executive Director of the Fish Union that brings together fishery and aquaculture enterprises.

“Our success may lie in uniting and making a product for our consumers, making a product with love. We need to introduce product traceability, a single catalog of master data,” he noted. Such systems are already in use in Mexico, Sweden, and Italy where all retail chains work in a single catalog combining information on the product, its owner, safety, etc. The expert believes that in future, consumers will order foods via a mobile app, like a cab. Today, all elements need to be combined and the priority should be given to technologies.

Pyotr Savchuk, Deputy Director of the Federal Agency for Fishery, noted that Russia catches and processes enough fish, but much goes abroad as raw goods. The global experience tells that us that people today want to spend less time on cleaning fish and they look for a product that is environmentally friendly and easy to cook.

“We need to introduce trading standards for fish. Our strategy is calculated for the consumer market; consumer preferences define the entire chain. If we create this industry, fishermen will conclude long-term contracts with chains, and that will produce the desired results. There should be an appropriate attitude to fish, fish should be liked,” Pyotr Savchuk emphasized.

Pavel Mezhericher, CEO of Loyalty Catalyst LLC, noted that customers are the source of business. He believes that customers should be inculcated with regular need for fish, and attractive products should be developed to be offered to them. For instance, customers are willing to pay 10-15% more for “wild” fish. He also added that customized products and snacks are the current trend.

Oleg Barmin, owner of the Lipko-Sladko company specializing in producing honey and honey products, noted that beekeepers and fishery business owners have one problem in common: they can produce quality goods, but have no skills for selling them. The expert noted that what is required is creating products that people trust and want to buy, and presented possible options of promoting pollock: “Fish and Wine” stores, pollock sticks sold as fast food, fish pizza, “fish Tuesdays” with home deliveries of foods and even fish recipes included with multi-cookers.