Your company started processing its own milk on a small scale back in 2013. And now you want to take it to the next level?
Yes. Right now, we are making dairy products from about ten percent of our raw milk. Our goal is to eventually process all of the milk we produce. We believe that will enable us to generate more value on our raw milk and produce truly natural, high-quality dairy products.
How do you plan to get there?
First, in 2013 and 2016, we built two dairies in Novosibirsk und Voronezh for 10 and 30 metric tons per day. In 2017, we took over two existing dairy operations: in Anninsky in the Voronezh region with a capacity of 320 metric tons per day and another one in Medyn in the Kaluga region with a capacity of 300 metric tons per day. We are currently building a new plant in the Novosibirsk region that will be able to process more than 1,150 tons of raw milk daily. Two more dairies – near Moscow and Voronezh – are in the planning stages.
How do you market your products?
We launched our own dairy brand, EkoNiva, at the end of 2018. We currently sell over 25 different products under that brand, from milk to kefir to sweet and sour cream, butter, cottage cheese, yoghurt with fruit added, and functional foods like yoghurt smoothies with less sugar and added protein. Right now, we produce them in our three plants in Kaluga and Voronezh, which have a combined daily capacity of 650 metric tons of raw milk.
We started marketing our products in the greater Moscow area, which has a population of around 30 million people, and in the Voronezh region. We plan to expand distribution across all of Russia. Five years from now, we want EkoNiva to be the leading dairy and cheese brand in Russia in terms of both quality and quantity.
Do your plans extend beyond Russia’s borders?
They do. In 2019, we became one of ten Russian dairies to be granted export licenses for China. By the end of this year, we will start shipping shelf-stable products like UHT milk and cheeses to China. Our easternmost neighbor offers huge potential for sales.
What role do PET containers play in marketing dairy products in Russia?
I personally prefer cartons for milk. But consumers have the last word, and my marketing people have convinced me that PET containers are the way of the future in milk. So, that’s where we’re going. PET is extremely popular in Russia. Sales are higher on products packaged in PET, even though prices are different. PET containers are convenient for consumers. They’re easy to put in the refrigerator. They feel good in the hand, and you can see what’s inside – Russian consumers like to see what they’re buying. We plan to bottle not only milk but also kefir, yoghurt smoothies, and another product that I won’t reveal just yet in PET containers.
You have put your first PET line from Krones into operation. What made you choose Krones?
I was not personally involved in the decision-making. My technology people wanted the best technology, and my finance team wanted the cheapest deal. In the end, the technology folks won and they chose Krones.
Are you happy with their choice?
Our first order with Krones went very well. I heard no complaints, and that is always a good sign. It means everything is going as it should. And I think things will continue to go well in the future. We have big plans, and I am certain that our partnership with Krones will be a good and lasting one.