High quality, cleanness, delicious tastes, Finnishness and responsibility are attributes that consumers readily associate with Valio both in Finland and abroad. Although Valio is based first and foremost in Finland it has attained a strong standing in a number of foreign markets, too. Valio has five subsidiaries abroad of which the Russian operation is the biggest importer of Valio products. It constitutes half of Valio’s export operations and a quarter of Valio Group sales, making Russia a key market.
Valio’s presence in Russia dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. The very first Valio products, more precisely Valio butter, were exported to the Russian Empire in 1908. Almost a century later, the modern history of Valio Russia started in St. Petersburg in 1994.
“Valio wanted to move closer to Russian consumers in the new phase of the country’s economic resurgence as the demand for high quality products from Europe started to rise. Valio Russia is the link between Valio in Finland and our local market,” says Mika Koskinen, Valio’s Executive Vice President for Russia, Eastern Markets and Ingredients Sales.
Valio Russia runs the sales and marketing of Valio brand products in Russia and the CIS countries, as well as logistics operations within what is the world’s biggest country. Valio Russia has some local production, too. Valio’s Ershovo plant near Moscow produces Viola processed cheese in triangles. The plant also slices Valio cheese imported from Finland and Estonia. Valio also contracts production to the Galactika plant in the Leningrad region for kefirs and drinking yoghurts.
From Kaliningrad to Vladivostok
Today, Valio products can be found throughout Russia, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. However, most are sold in the metropolises, such as Moscow and St. Petersburg.
“Russia continues to offer huge potential for Valio. The market for high quality products is growing and there is an increasing number of Russian consumers who are ready to pay the quality premium,” Mr Koskinen explains.
“Valio sales in Russia have increased on average by 15% per year. These figures match the growth rates of dairy product consumption in Russia. The most significant growth is in the fresh dairy products category.”
"Valio products can be found throughout Russia, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok"
Three iconic brands
Valio offers a fairly broad product range in Russia and there are three brands especially beloved of Russian consumers. Valio butter leads the Russia butter category, setting the standard for the very best butter.
“Valio butter has been recognized as ‘product of the year’ many times. The choice is made by Russian consumers themselves,” says Evgenia Ponyatova, Head of Corporate Communications at Valio Russia.
Valio Viola® is another iconic brand in Russia, under which the company sells a variety of processed cheeses. Valio Russia started importing this high quality cheese from Finland in the 1950s, but the well-known blond girl on the package became a real star during the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
“Valio Oltermanni® leads the branded cheeses market in Russia, and has also become one of the country’s most popular cheeses,” says Ms Ponyatova.
“We’re importing more and more of our Finnish-made fresh products into Russia. In some categories such as yoghurts, Valio is a symbol of incomparable taste. Russian consumers choose Valio because of its Finnish origin, consistent quality and unique product range.”
Similarities and differences
Finnish and Russian markets possess certain similarities as well as differences that need to be appreciated when doing business in Russia.
“The pattern of milk consumption is quite similar in the two markets. Both the Finns and the Russians are considered to be ‘milk lovers’. However, some products are used differently. For instance, in Russia, processed cheese is traditionally taken as a snack and spread on bread, while in Finland it’s often used in cooking,” Ms Ponyatova explains.
“Our products meet the same standards for quality, raw materials and taste whether produced in Finland or Russia. Valio’s Ershovo plant uses cheese imported from Finland and made from Finnish milk in its processed cheese production.”
Although the Russian market is competitive, Valio has every opportunity to continue its success there. The key is to remain proactive, offering consumers products they want − clean, natural and innovative. And doing this in a responsible way.
Valio Russia in figures (2012)