Maria Losyukova von Ketchum Moskau erklärt uns wie ‘Foodies’ während der aktuellen Handelssperre kreativ werden.

Ein Beitrag aus unserem internationalen Foodmagazin “Inspired by Food No.2 – Ketchum’s Tasting Notes”:

camembert a la russe_großMaria Losyukova from Ketchum Moscow on how foodies get creative during the embargo.

August 2015 marked a year since Russia imposed an embargo on food from the EU, the US, Australia, Norway and Canada, and Moscow recently declared it would be extended for another year. Putting aside any geopolitical discourse, we wanted to take a look at the effect of the food sanctions on the average consumer and fine food connoisseur.

The embargo targets imports of beef, pork, chicken, fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables. In 2015, a number of new products were added to the list: lactose-free dairy products, baby trout, oysters and mussels. The ban has caused a mix of consequences, including an increase in the domestic production of certain foods, an obvious sharp drop in imports and, as happens with any prohibition, a new black market of smuggled products that are being sold primarily to restaurants and large retailers.

The sanctions have also raised nationwide polemics from two opposite standpoints: on the one hand patriotic support of the import ban that was endorsed by a number of local producers with pro-Russian
advertising, on the other hand the frustration of those who feel that their freedom of choice has been unfairly limited by geopolitical controversy. However, statistics show that only 1 per cent of Russia’s population has been affected by the food embargo and this relates mostly to middle- and upper-middle-class big-city residents.

One of the most obvious restrictions for the average consumer was the ban on European dairy products and, in particular, the ban on cheese. Italian, French and Dutch cheeses have featured in the Russian
shopping trolley for many years. The embargo left only Swiss cheese on the supermarket shelves, and prices soared due to the monopolistic situation. Local producers had never before tried to compete with the European quality of this product – until now, that is! More and more stories of entrepreneurs setting up small cheese farms and businesses all over Russia have come to light in the course of the year. Unsurprisingly, most of them are foreigners: Italians making mozzarella and burrata in Kostroma, an American dairy farmer producing goat cheese in remote Siberia, an Englishman making Gouda and Edam in the Vladimir region, and French Camembert being made in the Perm region. Small local start-ups and organic farming are also booming. Even monks in the famous Valaam Monastery have set up a Parmesan production line under the careful guidance of an Italian cheesemaker.

While the average consumer can surely go without a slice of Camembert or Gorgonzola, some Russian restaurateurs were forced to totally rewrite their menus or sometimes change their establishments’
specialisation. But most just started looking for new food providers. European seafood is being replaced with products from the Russian Far East, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Italian restaurants admit to serving Serbian pršut instead of the usual prosciutto di Parma. Australian steaks have been replaced with Argentinian meat. Chefs are turning to local seasonal produce more than ever before, and this is not only good for Russia’s economy but also great for the ecology.

But the real zeitgeist is the habits of Russian foodies. Those who can really tell the difference between Italian Grana Padano and its local replacement have found a new type of souvenir to bring back from
European travels – cheese and cured meat. And this is not the only newly acquired habit of food lovers. For example, Ketchum’s Senior GR Consultant Alexander Mazanov went a step further. After working
in Paris for several years and being a true Francophile, he couldn’t go without real Camembert cheese. So he started to make it himself. Alexander orders a special fungus for the mould crust in an online French shop. Russian milk seems to pair up quite well with it. The rest is a result of several months of ageing and Alexander’s culinary talent. His colleagues are impressed!