It was inevitable that the country best-known as a nation of vodka drinkers would also become a major market for the late 1990s version of the drink - the vodka-based premix.
A new report from drinks industry analysts Canadean claims that flavoured alcoholic beverages (FABs) will be the fastest growing category in the Russian spirits market this year after volume sales in 2002 were up 20 per cent to around 3.5 million nine-litre cases.
FABs are helping drive an overall recovery in the Russian spirits market, according to Canadean. Although overall per capita and volume figures remained below the high of 1999 last year, both are continuing a year-on-year climb back.
The premixed spirits are now being produced by virtually all distilleries, principally for consumers within the 16-24 age range. Producers are actively promoting a plethora of new brands, including one recently introduced range aimed at the health conscious drinker, containing juice. However, the 'gin-tonic' market - pioneered by the likes of Diageo with its Gordon's brand - has diminished with the leading role now played by fruit flavoured drinks based on vodka.
But whatever startling performance figures are turned in by other spirit categories the vast bulk of the spirits market - well over 90 per cent - is still dominated by vodka. A high demand for a quality product has led to the development during the last three years of many new brands by Russian manufacturers. Partly as a consequence of these improvements, the share of imported vodka has decreased substantially and is now represented in the premium class only.
Brandy and Cognac consumption growth in recent years has been second only to that of FABs with both local and imported brands benefiting. A low consumer awareness of the different products available points to further potential to grow the market and, claims the report, as many as 10 per cent of vodka consumers could partially desert their drink in favour of brandy.
Despite the fact that there are no local producers, the small whisky category has also recorded positive year-on-year growth since 1998, and is due to expand another 12 per cent this year. The product may have less than 1 per cent of the spirits market due to its high price, but is said to have potential for expansion and brand diversification if distillers' advertising is able to successfully exploit the drink's fashionable image.
For details of how to buy Canadean's Russian spirits market report, click here