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Coffee Consumption in Russia

Coffee Consumption In Russia
More and more people in Russia are drinking coffee in Russia and coffee drinkers’ tastes are changing. Russia is moving towards mainstream European and American consumption patterns, whilst retaining certain Russianness. In this program, we look at the what, how and why of coffee consumption in Russia.

Daniel Brooks, an American who worked as GM for several corporations (Tchibo, Nabisco, Tata) and now lives in Moscow, joins the program.

Daniel says that in general, "Russians like strong coffee, they like their coffee to be well balanced. They don't like too much acidity and bitterness in their coffee; they like it to be a little bit sweet, but still a nice cup of coffee. I would say that most of the coffee consumed in Russia is with milk and also sugar, which is one of the reasons why cappuccino is so popular. 8 out of 10 cups of coffee consumed per capita in Russia is instant. That's because Russia is primarily a tea drinking market, and Russians consume coffee in the same way that they consume tea by pouring hot water from a teapot into a cup that has coffee in it. Whist at the same time, gourmet coffee — ground roasted coffee, which is the exciting part of the market, is growing. In terms of brands, Russia has the big players here — such as Kraft, Nestle, also Starbucks, at the same time at least 60% of the market is comprised of local companies."

An explanation as to why Russians don't drink so much strong coffee is that they usually drink tea at home when they wake up, not coffee. "It's when they go to work, that's when they drink strong coffee. One of the reasons that they like coffee with milk is also from the tea drinking tradition. They add sugar and other additives to tea and they do the same thing to coffee. I think 85% of coffee consumed with Russia is consumed with milk, and about 75% is with sugar in it….Russians are gradually moving towards drinking coffee in the way that the rest of the world drinks it. Basically, over time, since the fall of the Soviet Union, the quality of coffee has improved. In Soviet times, there was low quality soluble available, some ground coffee but it was fairly limited. Since then, the quality of soluble coffee has improved, and now Russians are taking the next step, moving from soluble coffee up to ground coffee, just like the rest of the world."

As far as the use of coffee machines at home goes, Daniel say: "…I think it will take time but more and more Russians are now putting coffee machines into their homes. It is taking time because for one reason, a lot of Russian apartments are small. The kitchens are small, and another reason is that still Russians are drinking coffee at home, where they also drink tea. It is taking a longer time for Russia to move into a coffee drinking culture. This is not really a coffee drinking culture, as say Germany or the United States is."

The leading countries which supply coffee to Russia at the moment, Daniel says are: "Vietnam, which is the leader of coffees on the soluble side, they supply most of the Robusta coming into Russia today and they will continue to grow because of price. Number two is Brazil. Vietnam and Brazil are also leading suppliers of the low end of the ground coffee market….On the higher quality side, Brazil is the market leader, also Columbia, and countries in Central America like Guatemala and Honduras."

A huge number of coffee shops has opened up in Moscow over the past few years: "There are so many coffee shops now… You have Starbucks here, and British brands, Russian brands and franchises and all kinds of formats. So it's really exciting, there is lots of growth going on." To the question: are there large differences in terms of quality in coffee shops in Russia as compared to say the UK, Daniel answers: "I think that there are a lot of similarities in Moscow to most cites in Europe, I think that there is more Robusta here, but I think that's something that only I am aware of. However if you leave Moscow and go out to the smaller cities, you can still find expresso in the gas stations, but you don't see many coffee shops out in the regions, so there is still room to grow in the rest of the country…"

Daniel sees Russia gradually westernizing: "I think that Moscow is distinctly different from most European cities. Anybody who visits Moscow will see that. I think that Russians prefer it that way. At the same time, it's a country that has one foot in Europe as well, I'm from the United States and many Russian customs are more European than American ones. So it's a bit like Russia has feet in both doors. I would also say that Moscow and St. Petersburg as cities have really improved the way their city centers are available for traffic in a way that a lot of Europeans have developed their cities." The advantages and disadvantages for retail of the Moscow City government's drive to increase pedestrian zones are discussed.

Daniel sees an increasing number of world class roasted coffee brands entering the Russian market. He also sees the appearance of different kinds of coffee-making machines that are more affordable, that allow people to make coffee at home. "I think that someday soon Russians will be using coffee making machines that use capsules in the same way that they are used in Europe and the United States."

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