Before Sanctions, Russians Imported European Gourmet Foods. Now They’re Making Their Own.

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Having been travelling to Russia on a regular basis for years, I am familar with the cuisine and foods on offer. Supermarkets used to be full of certain imported foodstuffs; cheese for example, as the Russian variety was rubbery and tasteless. Most wines were imported, as were various processed meats. The local equivalents were in terms of quality, rather poor, but cheap.

The imposition of sanctions by first the Americans, who have little trade with China, and the EU, who had at that time bilateral trade with Russia worth €338.5 billion, has seen a profound shift in EU supplies to Russia. When the EU hit Moscow with sanctions, the Russians did exactly the same in return. EU-Russia trade subsequently fell by over 40 percent.

Hardest hit were many of the EUs small farmers and producers, reliant upon the Russian market, in some cases, for generations. Six years later, following two-three years of Russians having to endure rubbery domestic cheese and so on, the tables have turned. Gourmet foods once exported to Russia by European producers are now produced in Russia. Here are some examples:



Burrata is a soft creamy cheese made from either cow or buffalo milk, originally from the Apulia region of Italy. This Russian version is from the Volga region of Russia. The original Italian supplier shut his Italian factory and relocated it to Russia. 30 Italians lost their jobs, taken by the Russian operation, which now employs 50.




This platter contains cheese indistinguishable from Brie, Cheddar, and Gorgonzola, among others. These are all produced in the Smolensk region.




The cured roe of grey mullet or tuna, originally from southern France and Italy. It is an expensive delicacy, fetching several hundred euros a kilo for the best. This borttaga was manufactured in Crimea and is of the same quality at an eighth of the price.




European quality meat production has also shifted to Russia, as this plate of vension tartare illustrates. Meat quality and curing, processing hygiene, and presentation techniques have all been exported to Russia.




There are three main wine producing regions in Russia, along the River Don, Crimea, and Krasnodar on the Black Sea coast. Some of the vineyards date back to imperial times; many have been fallow since the fall of the Soviet Union. French, Italian, German and Swiss viniculturalists are all over these regions now. Some of these wines are scoring in the top one percent of wines of the world, according to Vivino.

There are many other examples, especially within the meat processing industry, where Russian-made gourmet salami, carpaccio meats, as well as sausages, steaks, and haunches are all now being produced with what used to be European technology.

The issue facing the EU bureaucrats in imposing sanctions on Russia is the lack of understanding shown to European producers. Unable to sell EU produce to Russia, they have simply either gone bankrupt or relocated their production to Russia, in a type of technology transfer. The EU simply gifted Russia these businesses, employment, and taxable revenues. These will never return to the EU, even when sanctions are eventually lifted.

Note: images taken at LavkaLavka, farm to table restaurant in Moscow.

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