Exporting Swiss Cheese to Russia: tips and tricks

Interview with a large distributor of Swiss dairy and meat products

The pandemic has resulted in major changes in consumer behavior and habits in Russia. To understand what trends are emerging in the Russian food market and how documentation and logistics work, we talked to the Managing Director of FOODLAND, a large Russian premium food producer and distributor of Swiss dairy and meat products.


Mr Maxim Polyakov, General Manager Foodland, your company is one of the largest cheese producers in Russian. You are also one of the largest importers and distributors of Swiss cheeses. How do you do it? Do your own brands compete with the foreign products you import?

As one of the largest producers and importers of cheese and other dairy products in Russia, Foodland owns two plants producing over 30 000 MT of cheese per year. Our company strategy is based on supplying our key customers in Russia with different cheese assortments and we see perfect synergy in combining our own production with imported cheese which extends the assortment and choice to any client.

Swiss cheese is very special as most of it is produced in traditional ways of natural ripening and often, they are rind-washed. Such production methods make Swiss cheese really outstanding and very expensive, so I would say there is no direct competition between Russian cheese and Swiss cheese.

What new trends do you see in food retail?

The Retail business in Russia is evolving very fast as competition between the largest retailers becomes tougher. Retail chains are focusing on store renovation, building the right assortment and navigation. The target is to create a value-oriented approach for the consumer. Some retailers are more successful in reaching this goal while others try to catch up. The COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated the growth in online shopping and most retailers either expanded or launched their e-commerce activities making it one of last year’s key trends.

Have chains purchasing preferences changed since the pandemic, especially the demand for premium products?

The Russian people’s real disposable income has been falling for several years and of course this impacts demand, especially in the premium segment. In 2020, travel restrictions supported sales because many people had to stay in Russia. Retail chains didn’t cut the category of premium products, at least in dairy, but suppliers at the moment are really between a rock and a hard place as retailers do not accept the price increase equivalent to the devaluation of the Russian Rouble and as a result, promotions are being curtailed and revenues are decreasing. 

What documents are required to import food products into the EAC countries?

The list of necessary documents depends on the category of products. In the case of dairy, either importer or producer must apply for and receive the declaration of conformity issued by Quality Assurance organizations in Russia and present it at customs clearance for the goods. 

How long do the logistics take?

Dairy products are most commonly delivered by refrigerated truck which normally takes between 5 and 7 days to get from Switzerland to Moscow.

On what conditions does your company cooperate with foreign suppliers?

Our company is one of the largest cheese importers in Russia and normally with most of our suppliers we work under DAP-Moscow terms. However, in the case of imports from Switzerland, we arrange the delivery ourselves, so it's Ex-Works. As for payment conditions, it involves credit terms with 30 days delay of payment.

Who is promoting the brand in the network (manufacturer, importer, seller)?

In most cases our company is responsible for marketing in Russia, but we have very good partners in Switzerland providing support and assistance, so it’s a team effort.

It is really important to provide the right communication with customers, especially in the case of Swiss cheese which has very special properties and a story to tell.

What are the specifics of working in the Russian market?

The Russian market is very attractive and challenging at the same time. We have a high level of competition, lots of state regulations and requirements, so any producer should be ready for that. It is important to find the right partner in Russia which has the expertise in imports and distribution. One of the risks is the volatility of the Russian Rouble which lost up to 30% of its value in 2020, so all imported goods got much more expensive for consumers.

Support for your international business in Russia

Are you interested in exporting your products to Russia or would you like to learn more about the Russian food market in general? Get in contact with our Consultant for Russia, Michael Kühn.


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