Gas packaging extends Russian cheese shelf-life

By Angela Drujinina

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cheese, Russia

Russian packager and food producer Nevskie Syry has launched a new
line of cheese packaging using inert gases that it says can
significantly extend products' shelf-life.

The company, which has factories in Pskov and in Ivanovo, said it had started packing three sorts of cheese using inert gases instead of vacuum-packing. It spent about $500,000 on the necessary new equipment.

The gases help to preserve the cheese for longer, significantly adding to the product's shelf-life; something extremely important in a vast market like Russia with long distances between urban centres.

Nevskie said the 'inert cheese' had a shelf-life of 120 days, while the average for vacuum-packed products was about 20 days and cheese packed in stretch-film only lasts only one day.

Inert gases also make the cheese look much more attractive. "The customer does not care what the cheese is packed in. The customer wants the cheese to be fresh,"​ said Ilya Lazerson, the chief consultant of Russian food firm Friko. "This is why the new package might be in the stores' advantage."

Nevskie said it was currently packing the majority of its customer's cheese in vacuum packs and was selling about 80 tonnes of cheese each month. It plans to sell at least 250 tonnes monthly with the new packaging, especially as packaged cheese becomes ever more popular with Russian food retailers.

Yet, the packaged cheese market is far from mature compared to western standards. Packaged cheese makes up 80 per cent and 90 per cent of the market in France and the UK respectively, but only five per cent in Russia so far, said Nevskie's Alexandr Clochkov.

In Saint Petersburg, for example, cheese packed in stretch-film still holds the biggest market share. Vacuum-packed cheese has not proved popular because retailers and food firms say that he lack of air causes soft cheese to become deformed.

Cheese consumption in Saint Petersburg is about 3,500 tonnes monthly, according to Nevskie research. The city imports about 1,500 tonnes each month and the rest are products from local manufacturers. Nevskie sells about 850 tonnes of cheese each month.

Albert Sufiyarov, Nevskie president, said the main problems of Saint Petersburg cheese market were "a lack of raw materials for cheese and low prices for hard cheese, due to subsidised European exports and sharp price changes during the summer".

Nevskie claims to occupy a quarter of the cheese market.

Before the economic crisis of 1998, the company was only importing cheese. After that it decided to begin manufacturing too. Now, Nevskie manufactures 220 tonnes of hard and about 400 tonnes of 'sausage' cheese every month.

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