Russia: new challenges for Italian food exports

Despite the impact of sanctions, the Russian market is still an excellent opportunity for Italian companies, which have to bet on value for money

The issues surrounding the Russian embargo are taking a toll on the business, and many large Italian food ventures have been forced to leave the market. It is a long way from the record data of 2013, but Italian exports to Russia started to register interesting growth trends once again, also driven by more stable economic conditions compared to the recent past. What is driving Italian products, however, is not just a stronger will to spend by consumers. To Russians, besides political controversies with the EU, Italy has always been the land of extraordinary food specialties, which are the basis of tasty and healthy recipes according to the primary rules of the Mediterranean diet.


Overall, exports in 2017 reached a turnover of 768 million euro, up by 23.4% compared to 2016. In the first three months of 2018, the value of trade was 176 million euro, up by 19.1% if compared to the same period of 2017. Italy ranks eighth among foreign partners of the Russian Federation, with a market share of 3.1%. “We think these are promising results,” comments Pier Paolo Celeste, Director of the Italian Trade Agency (ICE) in Russia, “considering that most of our direct competitors are not subject to the embargo; 2017 was, in fact, the year of the long-awaited turnaround. Thousands of Italian producers have enthusiastically re-embarked on ventures in Russia in the past few years, offering non-sanctioned products that could fully meet the needs of consumers: novelty and a great value for money.”

Pier Paolo Celeste-Italian Trade Agency-Russia
Pier Paolo Celeste, Director of the Italian Trade Agency in Russia


Five years ago the dairy segment amounted together to almost 182 million euro: today, exports have halved. Italy remains Russia’s first foreign supplier for at least three reasons. The first is wine, which generated a business of 255 million in 2017, with a growth of 34.9% and a market share of 29%, down to 27%, though, in the first trimester of this year. The second product is roasted coffee, which registered 75 million in 2017, thanks to an increase of 31.4%, confirmed in part in the first three months of 2018, where it grew by 16%. Finally, pasta: Italian made products have a market share close to 50%, a strong positive trend that reached +83.3% between January and March, with a turnover of 9 million euro. Italian food business ranks second for olive oil, in which exports rose by 30.1% in value last year and held 41.6% of the market share in March. Italy gets on the podium also for baked goods.


Strong support for the ambitions of Made in Italy products comes from the evolution of the large-scale distribution business in the country, which has been radically restructured, dramatically reducing the gap with the European standards. “To this day,” continues Pier Paolo Celeste, “many chain stores are operating, and some of them mainly focus on mid- to high-end Italian products. Starting from Gruppo X5 with the chain Perekrostok and the network Asbuka Vkusa (ABC of Taste). They are perfect showcases for our high-end products, which are already on display with a vast assortment.”  The catering business is also more and more decisive and strategic: here, Italian cuisine has still a leading role, starting with the fancy places in the capital. “During the second edition of the Worldwide Italian Cuisine Week – continues Pier Paolo Celeste – we involved 12 top and second-tier cities through heavy promotional activities. They involved over 30 Italian restaurants with ad-hoc menus, in partnership with eight of the largest distributors operating in Russia and 36 Italian food brands.”

World Food Moscow-Russia


In the past few years, World Food Moscow has grown into one of the most relevant international events for food products in Russia and the neighboring states. The 27th edition of the fair, from 17 to 20 September at the Expocentre in Moscow, will host over 1,600 exhibitors, a thousand of which from abroad, and more than 50 thousand professionals in the agri-food industry. For this occasion, the Italian Trade Agency (ICE) has organized an Italian delegation that will take up 520 square metres to host seminars, cooking show demonstrations, and 10-square-metre stands. Besides World Food Moscow, the Agency has confirmed participation in Prodexpo, still in Moscow from 11 to 15 February 2019, where Italy will participate with a delegation supportingcompanies from Basilicata, Campania, Apulia, Sicily, Abruzzo, Molise and Sardinia.

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