TALLINN - At a time when many Estonian food producers are struggling with their businesses, cheese producers have again discovered the vast Russian market and cheerfully say that Russians still remember the taste of Estonian cheese, reports news agency LETA. It is estimated that Estonian producers sold 6,500 tons of cheese in Russia last year.
Of four large cheese producers in Estonia, Valio Eesti exported 2,821 tons of cheese to Russia last year, followed by E-Piim (1,419 tons), Estover (1,253 tons) and Saaremaa Piimatoostus (1,045 tons).
Valio Eesti says that exports are growing because there’s a deficit of dairy products everywhere, which is driving up prices and creating demand. “Estonians are now also exporting to Russia unbranded cheese and raw cheese, which is re-packed and re-processed in Russia,” explained Elar Ollik, the company’s export manager.
Saaremaa Piimatoostus says it invested more than five million euros into product development and increased cheese exports 62 percent in a year, to 1,275 tons.
According to United Estover Group’s sales manager, Hannes Prits, Estonian food has managed to build up an image of quality products in the St. Petersburg area and in northwest Russia, which means that Russian consumers are willing to pay a premium for having Estonian cheese, in comparison with, for instance, cheese made in Germany.
“Russians want their cheese to be tasty and a quality product, which means that more than 50 percent of our exports are made up of fattier cheese in bigger packages, and we export very little light cheese. The most popular type of cheese in our Russian export is tilsiter,” said Prits, adding that in Russia the company is also using more colorful packages.